A Brief history of Mazda
Although Mazda was one of the first Japanese manufacturers to produce a car it took quite a while to find its niche in the world market. The companies beginnings can be traced back to Jujiro Matsuda, who in 1920, founded Toyo Cork Kogyo Co., Ltd, originally manufacturing machine tools the company soon took a change in direction and in 1931 launched the Mazda Go (a three wheeled open truck that strongly resembled a motorcycle). However with the start of the Second World War production moved away from automobiles to concentrate on helping with the Japanese war effort. Following the end of the war a further twenty five years would pass before Mazda launched its first proper four wheel car.
Powered by a 356cc V twin, the Mazda R360 was launched in 1960 in Japan, within a couple of years of introduction, the R360 had captured much of the lightweight car market in its native Japan. This success was followed in 1961 with the launch of the P360 Carol, replacing the R360, the P360 Carol was powered by one of the smallest four cylinder water cooled engines ever seen, a 358cc OHV unit.
Steady advances were made throughout the sixties, however Mazda had its golden period in the nineteen seventies. The rotary Wankel engine was introduced into many Mazda vehicles and with this engine Mazda had that little extra something that distinguished them from their rivals. Even though Mazda had all these successes and launched the RX-7 in 1978 the end of the seventies saw Mazda go through their first ever financial crisis, which resulted in Ford taking a 25 % stake in the company.
Led by the popularity of the RX-7, Mazda saw a revival of their fortunes in the early eighties. New models were launched, notably the Mazda 323, which took the number one spot from the Toyota Corolla as the most popular Japanese manufactured car (still significant to this day as a Toyota is inevitably at the top of the best selling list). The late eighties again saw Mazda heading towards decline, sales dropped and an attempt to diversify the range only did further damage, the MX-5 became the only shining light through this latter period of the eighties.
Through the nineties Mazda began working on new models in conjunction with Ford, although the fruits of their labours did not come to pass until early in the twenty first century. The major acheivement being recognised as the launch of the stunning RX-8, this was also followed a couple of years later by the new MX-5 Roadster Coupe with a retractable hard top, both of which were received extremely enthusiastically by the press and the general public.