On 30th January, Mazda celebrated its 100th anniversary with a ceremony at the company’s Hiroshima headquarters that started a year of events during which the company will remember its past and look to the future. 100 years ago Mazda was a Hiroshima cork producer when industrialist Jujiro Matsuda took charge and transformed the business first into a machine tool producer, and then a vehicle manufacturer.
100 YEARS OF MAZDA
The first vehicle from the company was a three-wheeled truck, the Mazda-Go, that went on sale in 1931. Following the Second World War, truck manufacturing resumed only a few months after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and commercial vehicles remained the focus until the first passenger car, the Mazda R360, arrived in 1960. The car was a hit in Japan’s budding kei-car segment, paving the way for the successful line-up of Mazda cars today.
In 1961, the company signed a licensing deal with German carmaker NSU to develop and produce its new compact, lightweight Wankel rotary engines. In 1967, the futuristic Mazda Cosmo Sport 110S became the world’s first production model with a rotary engine. It was the start of a remarkable success story that would see the brand launch numerous models, including the Mazda RX-7, and sell almost two million rotary-powered vehicles over the years.
Mazda would also prove its technological prowess on the track, becoming the first Asian manufacturer to win the gruelling 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1991 with the four-rotor Mazda 787B – the only car ever to win with a non-piston engine. Whilst the rotary engine was an example of Mazda’s devotion to fun-to-drive cars, it was after the company name officially changed to Mazda Motor Corporation in 1984 that it really showed its love of driving with the launch in 1989 of a lightweight roadster called the Mazda MX-5 at a time when two-seater convertibles were virtually extinct. Today, four model generations later, the Mazda MX-5 remains the top-selling roadster in history, having surpassed the one-million production mark in 2016.
Commenting on Mazda’s centenary, Mazda Motors UK Managing Director, Jeremy Thomson, said: ‘Mazdas have been sold in the UK for over 50 years and today, just as in the past, UK consumers love the style, quality and driver involvement of our cars. The UK’s passion for the MX-5 means we’ve sold more than 130,000 here, and today all our cars feature the essence of the Jinba Ittai ‘driver-and-car-as-one’ philosophy that is exemplified by the MX-5.’
The rotary-powered RX-7 went through three generations and lasted from 1978 until 2002.
Mazda’s first car was the R360 in 1960, a cute, quirky and tiny two-door/four-seater coupé.
Uniquely, Mazda made a success of the Wankel engine in a variety of applications.
Where it began – the three wheeled Mazda-Go of 1931 was the company’s first vehicle.