Mazda History: Zooming into the Future with Uncompromising Quality

Mazda History: Feel the Mazda Difference

1921 – 1930 – The origin

Born in Hiroshima and the son of a fisherman, Jujiro Matsuda (1875-1952) is inventive and initiative. In 1906 he devised a mechanical pump for industrial applications called Matsuda-type. Shortly after, he took control of the foundry that has served him as a school (he had been an apprentice blacksmith), calling it Matsuda Pump Partnership. 

It didn’t take long for him to set up a small-arms factory called the Matsuda Works, a buoyant business at the time. Among others, it manufactures the Type 99 rifle, which is acquired by the Japanese armed forces and even the troops of the Russian Tsar. The year is 1921when Matsuda, already a prosperous businessman returns to Hiroshima and sees the opportunity to buy Toyo Cork Kogyo Co. Ltd, a company dedicated to cork production. 

The decline of this business encourages him to convert it into a tool and machinery factory. The company, renamed Toyo Kogyo Co. Ltd., already operated in its new activity in 1927 within a complex known as Fuchü City. However, it is simultaneously preparing for the launch of vehicles. It is the seed of the future Mazda Motor Corporation, originally from Hiroshima.

1931 – 1940 – Three wheels

The company manufactured the Mazdago in 1931, a three-wheeled industrial vehicle –one single front for the steering-, half motorcycle, half commercial, which is widely accepted by the public. Its truck-like appearance adopts a rear bathtub in the style of the current pick-up. It has air-cooled single-cylinder mechanics and has been built for years in different versions.

1941 – 1950 – Again, rifles

The company’s main activity in this period focuses on producing weapons for the Japanese army, especially during the Second World War. The Type 99 rifle is once again one of them. The dropping of the atomic bomb on August 6, 1945, on the city of Hiroshima, devastates almost everything. 

Fuchü City, five kilometres from the explosion’s epicentre, is relatively unscathed, and Matsuda decides to cede its facilities as the temporary office of NHK, the pioneering local television.

1951 – 1960 – Mazda R360, the first car

Despite his strong ties to the Japanese authorities, Matsuda is not charged with conspiracy in post-WWII trials. This fact allows it to progressively relaunch Toyo Kogyo Co. Ltd., ultimately one of the main drivers of the region’s reconstruction in the 1950s.

It even provides funds for creating the baseball team “Hiroshima Carp, “currently in force and partially owned by current members of the Matsuda family. Jujiro Matsuda passed away in 1952, although he previously handed over the legacy to his adoptive nephew Tsuneji Matsuda, responsible for expanding the firm in the automotive field until the 1970s. 

Meanwhile, in 1960 the brand launched its first car, a two-seater coupe called the Mazda R360 powered by a 356cc 16hp V-twin engine. It reaches a maximum speed of 84 km / h and incorporates a four-speed manual gearbox or two-speed automatic. 

This model was later derived from a mini pick-up called Mazda B360 Pickup. Although the company retains its original name, Matsuda had decided that all its cars should be called Mazda (something that already happened with the first model, the Mazda of 1931). 

The name “Mazda” coincides with the English pronunciation of the name of the founder Jujiro Matsuda, a great fan of spirituality. Paradoxically, the founder habitually used this word: it derives from Ahura-Mazda, which in Avestan – ancient Iranian dialect – means God of wisdom, intelligence, and harmony.

1961 – 1970 – The first tourism

Toyo Kogyo began in 1962 a phase of technical cooperation with the German firm NSU / Wankel to develop rotary engines. A year later, the Mazda Carol 600, a four-door vehicle with a conventional 586 cc twin-cylinder engine, takes the place of the R360. 

It was not until 1967 when the brand launched its first model with a rotary drive, derived from the collaboration with NSU: it is the sporty Cosmo Sports 110S. Simultaneously, large-scale export to Europe begins: the Japanese company has gone from producing 16-hp cars to manufacturing sports cars.

1971 – 1980 – More sporty

The Mazda RX-3 (1973) became the first vehicle to comply with the strict United States regulations that regulate polluting gas emissions. The brand’s leadership in mechanical performance translates into a longstanding tradition of making sports cars, like the famous 1978 RX-7, which, of course, has a rotary engine.

A year later, this model is awarded the first two places in the prestigious 24 Hours of Daytona; his competitiveness leads him to seven consecutive GTU series championships. Before, in 1975, the famous typography of the Mazda logo was presented, which is still valid today. On the other hand, Ford Motor CompanyWithin the expansionary policy of its industrial activities, it acquired 25% off Toyo Kogyo Co. Ltd. in 1979. Finally, in 1980 the front-wheel-drive 323 was introduced.

1981 – 1990 – MX-5 appears

 The decade of the 80 is very fruitful for the Japanese manufacturer: models of the 626 or the MPV minivan are born, of great success in the North American market. As a tribute to its founder, in 1984, Ford Motor Company definitively named the company Mazda Motor Corporation. 

Two years later, a specially prepared RX-7 sets a speed record of 383.735 km / h at the Bonneville National Trials. Another event that will be marked in the history of Mazda takes place in 1989: the MX-5 arrives, a small cult roadster whose fame continues to this day. The decade concludes with the opening of the European R&D centre in Germany.

1991 – 2000 – Triumph at Le Mans

This decade begins with the most notorious sporting triumph: the 787B prevails in the 24 Hours of Le Mans (1991): it is the first triumph of a Japanese brand in this event. This same year the MX-3 appeared: manufactured until 1998, it is a pioneer in the small coupe segment. 

Among others – according to markets, it offered 1.5 and 1.6 engines – it had an astonishing 135 hp 1.8 V6 engine, the smallest of this type manufactured to date. In the middle of the decade, in 1996, Ford increased its stake in Mazda to 33.4%: Scottish Henry Wallace became president of the firm, the first non-Japanese and with a rotary engine.

A year later, the new 323 and 626 families arrived in Europe. The Demio FC-EV also sees the light of day., an electric vehicle equipped with a fuel cell, and the second generation MX-5 (1999). It was manufactured until 2005, with fixed headlights instead of folding ones, a slightly larger body -although similar in design to its predecessor-, and 1.6 and 1.6 four-cylinder gasoline engines. 1.8. Finally, on February 29, 2000, the brand arrived in Spain: Mazda Automobiles Spain was established.

2001 – Act – Zoom-Zoom philosophy

Mazda surpasses the barrier of 35 million units produced in 2001 and presents the attractive RX-8 at the Detroit Motor Show. It also completes the development of another fuel cell electric car called Premacy FC-EV and launches the Tribute SUV or SUV, a clone of the Ford Escape and available in 129 and 203 hp versions. 

A year later, in 2002, comes the Mazda6 and the famous corporate slogan “Zoom-Zoom,” which the brand identifies with the sporty sound of its models and combines innovation and creativity to stimulate driving. 

On January 20, 2003, the Mazda2, the first model of the Japanese brand produced in Europe, left the Ford plant in Almusafes (Valencia). But this is not the only novelty; at the end of this year, the Mazda3 arrived; in 2005, the third generation of the MX-5 was released, which a year later was available with a retractable hardtop; Also in 2006, the world’s first vehicle with a rotary hydrogen engine, the RX-8 Hydrogen RE, was presented as a prototype. It is followed by the new Mazda2 (2007), with 3 and 5-door bodies, and the CX-7 SUV (2009). 

In 2008, a Premacy Hydrogen RE Hybrid obtained Japanese government approval for testing on public roads and demonstrated at the G-8 summit in Hokkaido (Japan). In 2009, the second generation of the Mazda3 was launched, the best-selling model in the brand’s recent history. 

The most recent models are the CX-5 (2012), with which the automobile firm joins the booming craze for SUVs, and the third-generation Mazda 6, launched in 2013.

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