Pushing the envelope: Mazda through the years

Courtesy of Sport-Durst Mazda

Mazda just keeps getting better and better every year; from its humble beginnings in 1920, this Japanese carmaker has steadily improved with each model. Like a lot of great companies, Mazda started out making something completely different than automobiles. The company began with a different name too, the Toyo Cork Kogyo Company, and they made machine tools. In 1931 the company produced its Mazdago, which was a small, three-wheeled open truck that looked like a motorcycle. Well, you have to start somewhere.

They went through a number of changes through the 1940s and 50s, and then began seriously developing the rotary engine using Wankel’s famous design. Everyone else in the auto world gave up on the rotary, but not Mazda, and it put them on the map as an inventive company that was open to new concepts and technologies.

Mazda’s Wankel rotary use in its cars made the company famous and sales soared through the 60s and 70s. Even when they used piston-powered engines in their cars, the name Mazda proved an almost unbeatable selling force. The RX models, for example, seemed to take the world by surprise and Mazda’s popularity rose fast. When Mazda put the rotary engine on the RX-7 sport car, it became one of the most popular small sports cars in the world.

Ford Motor Company became an investor in Mazda in the 1960s and together, these two companies produced some very profitable cars and trucks. Together, they developed the Ford Explorer, the Ford Fiesta, the Mazda 626 and the Ford Ranger truck, which were all very good sellers.

In the late 1990s, Ford increased its ownership of Mazda stock and took over a controlling interest in the company. Several of Ford’s executives helped Mazda re-define its development and sales programs and then Ford began reducing its stake ownership in the company. Ford now owns only about 3 per cent of Mazda, but the two car giants continue to work together and exchange technologies.

Today, Mazda has embraced it new KODO design mantra, with the new Mazda6 and CX-5 both showcasing a new face for the manufacturer, something which will continue in 2014 with the new Mazda3. With these latest models and a brand new version of the iconic MX-5, Mazda will fortify its name among the heavy-hitters of the industry.

Mazda has certainly come a long way from the three-wheeled Mazdago. They have been innovators in the industry and have developed quite a few popular cars and trucks. That trend continues today with their 2014 models and beyond, thanks mainly to its new