This year, Japanese car manufacturer Mazda celebrated the production of 50 million vehicles in Japan. This impressive milestone demonstrates just how far the company has come since it started out in cork production back in 1920!
These days, people from all over the world drive their cars, with people in Australia voting the Mazda CX-5 the most popular car for practicality just this year. So how did the company go from producing artificial corks to becoming Japan’s fifth largest producer of passenger cars? We take a look at how Mazda has become so successful.
A Brief History of Mazda
Mazda Motor Corporation started out in 1920 as Toyo Cork Kogyo Company, manufacturing cork products in Hiroshima, Japan. It wasn’t until 1931 that the company began its journey as an automaker, with the Mazda brand name being born along with the production of the company’s first three-wheeled truck, known as the Mazda-Go Type-DA.
Its first passenger car, the tiny, two-door Mazda R360 coupe, wasn’t introduced until 1960. Then, in 1961, the company entered into an agreement with German manufacturer NSU and Dr. Felix Wankel to develop the Wankel rotary engine. The rotary engine would go on to power the Mazda Cosmo Sports 110S, which launched at the 1963 Tokyo Motor Show.
In the late 60s, exports to the European market began in part due to the Cosmo, as well as a range of family cars. Mazda grew quickly during this period, and by 1970 had started exporting to the U.S. market too.
By 1973, annual production of Mazda’s rotary-engine models alone went up to 240,000 units. The next year, they became one of the world’s top ten largest automotive manufacturers. We can see why their vehicles became such a hit in the United States, offering Japanese ingenuity, value for money, along with American styling.
However, when the first oil crisis hit, things got tough for the company. Consumers were now more interested in fuel efficiency which meant they had to find a way to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions dramatically. This led to the 1975 launch of the Mazda Cosmo AP and Mazda RX-5, giving the company renewed strength.
In 1979, Ford Motor Company purchased a 25 percent stake in the company, the same year Mazda celebrated success with the Mazda RX-7 which was considered the ultimate rotary-engine supercar. In 1984, the company officially changed its name to Mazda Motor Corporation. In 1989, the first generation of the world-famous roadster Mazda MX-5 was introduced to the world.
This vehicle became such a hit that in 2000, it landed in the Guinness Book of Records as the best-selling two-seater sports car of all time. This vehicle is now considered the role model for all open-top sports cars, with more than one million having been rolled out so far.
Going back to the 90s, Mazda ran into some financial difficulties, in part due to currency fluctuations in some export markets. This led to Ford increasing its stake to 33.4 percent and Henry Wallace being appointed president, steering Mazda into a new direction with improved production efficiency and faster development. In 1999, the company posted its first full-year net profits in six years.
During the 2000s, Mazda went from strength to strength. In 2002, Zoom-Zoom became the brand slogan, symbolizing a new era for the automaker. The midsize Mazda 6 marked this new design era, winning several comparison tests and making its way to the top of the import charts.
Vehicles equipped with Skyactiv technology have helped the company enjoy newfound success. Their ‘Driving Matters’ campaign highlighted the master craftsmen behind the cars, along with the brand’s fun-to-drive spirit, its safety, fuel efficiency, and styling. This offered a more mature alternative to their well-known Zoom-Zoom slogan.
So, what has the famous automaker got planned for the future? Well, for the last couple of years it has been focusing on increasing its production flexibility and creating a framework that would allow it to respond to changes in demand quickly. Next year, the company hopes to begin mass producing cars that feature next-generation technologies and design, while it continues to expand its production framework.