Mazda Motor Corporation is a Japanese car manufacturer that operates in various automotive markets around the world. Mazda is based in the Fuchu Aki district in Hiroshima, Japan. The majority of their vehicles are produced and assembled in their Japan based plants. They are then distributed worldwide to places where Mazda operates. Aside from the vehicles produced in Japan, Mazda also operates several assembly plants throughout the globe. Every unit produced in these facilities is distributed directly to their respective markets for sale.
Mazda during its earliest foundation and the Second World War
Mazda’s earliest roots are traced back to the year 1920, when its founder Jujiro Matsuda and a small group of investors acquired a small company called, Toyo Cork Kogyo. Toyo Cork Kogyo manufactured machine tools for domestic sales. In 1927, the company changed its name into Toyo Kogyo Co. Ltd. Slowly, but surely, Toyo Kogyo’s operation gradually shifted from producing machine tools to the production of vehicles.
The shift in production resulted to the introduction of a three-wheeled truck, called the Mazda-Go in 1931. Aside from producing this vehicle, Toyo Kogyo was also involved in the manufacturing of military weapons used by the Japanese military. These weapons were used in the Second World War, particularly the Type 99 rifle series 30 to 35.
Mazda after the Second World War
After the Second World War, Mazda continued producing vehicles under the name Toyo Kogyo. But, this was subsequently changed to “Mazda” in 1984. According to the company’s website, this name was derived from “Ahura Mazda”, a Persian-Zoroastrianism God. However, most automotive historians also believe that the company’s name was derived from its founder “Jujiro Matsuda.” These claims still remain unverified, even up till today. Another question that goes unanswered, is why most of the company’s earliest vehicles carried the name “Mazda”, even-though the change of name was not yet implemented during those times.
Mazda’s popularity started to grow in 1960 when the company introduced its first real car, which was the Mazda R360. The Mazda R360 was a 4-seat, 2-door coupe, powered by a rear mounted air-cooled 356 cc V-twin engine. This engine was mated to either a 4-speed manual transmission or a 2-speed automatic transmission. That engine was capable of producing a maximum power output of up to 16 horsepower and 16 lb.-ft. of torque. The engine was capable of producing a top speed of about 52mph.
Aside from producing vehicles, Mazda’s operation also involved the development of the Wankel rotary engine. The company’s focus on developing this engine was basically triggered by Mazda’s desire to use this technology as a means of differentiating itself from other Japanese car manufacturers. Mazda’s efforts and resources used in developing the rotary engine eventually gained positive results. The company started selling the newly-developed engine in 1962. Five years later, Mazda released the limited edition Cosmo Sport. This 1967 sport was powered by Mazda’s rotary engine. This type of engine was also used in the current RX-8 engine. These events titled Mazda as the sole car manufacturer engaged in the production of the Wankel engines.
Mazda’s development and use of the rotary engine in the R100 and the RX Series increased the company’s exports a great deal. The increase in exports was eventually followed by Mazda’s expansion in other areas of the world. In 1968 Mazda started its formal operations in Canada. Two years after, Mazda began its operations in the American market and became very successful. As a result of its success in America, Mazda produced the Mazda Rotary Pickup, which was offered for North American buyers only.
The success of Mazda in the American and world markets, brought about by the growing demands for the rotary engine, suffered a major setback in 1973 when the “oil crisis” occurred. Fortunately, the company did not fully abandon the production of vehicles equipped with piston-powered engines. These vehicles saved Mazda complete collapse. As a result, the 4-cylinder powered models, such as the Mazda Familia and the Mazda Capella series, became very important during those times.
Despite the decline in demand for vehicles with rotary engines, Mazda was able to find a way to use them in some of their models. Instead of installing the rotary engine, Mazda has used them in sports cars. The Mazda RX-7 became the first recipient of this strategy in 1978, and was followed by the modern version RX-8. The company had also focused its attention in developing small and lightweight sports cars with powerful piston-powered engine. Mazda’s efforts to develop this type of sports car resulted in the production of the Mazda Roadster or popularly known as the Miata, in 1989. The Mazda Roadster was then given credit for reviving the existence of small sports cars, which started to decline in the later parts of the `70s.
Mazda Motor Corporation developed a partnership with Ford Motor Company when Mazda experienced financial turmoil in the 1960s. Ford became a willing investor and the American car manufacturer earned a 7% financial stake in 1979, which had then increased to 27% during the `80s. Since Mazda had been suffering from financial difficulties, Ford continued to acquire some of the company’s stakes, and in 1996 Ford was able to gain 33.4% of Mazda’s financial stakes. These stakes, however, were sold by Ford in 2008, when the American car manufacturer was struck by the negative effects of the world financial crisis. As a result, Ford reduced its involvement with Mazda’s operation, which eventually allowed the Japanese car maker to handle its own affairs and engage the global automobile market with the utmost independence.
Aside from acquiring Mazda’s financial stakes, Ford was also involved in several projects with its newly established partner. Most of these projects were focused on the development of smaller cars and pickups. Aside from this, Mazda had also shared some of its resources with Ford. The Mazda Familia shared its platform with several Ford models, such as the Escort and the Laser. Mazda Capella’s architecture was also used in Ford’s Probe sports model and the Telstar sedan.
In addition to this, Mazda had also helped Ford develop some of its own vehicles, including the Ford Explorer in 1991. In fact, Mazda also sold a similar vehicle called the Mazda Navajo, but its sales became a failure. As a result, the Japanese car maker decided to discontinue sales of the Navajo. Mazda had also used the Ford Ranger as a base for its B-Series trucks. These trucks were sold in the North American market from 1994 to 2010. Due to poor sales, Mazda decided to discontinue the production of the B-Series as-well.
Mazda and Ford’s partnership started to weaken when the Japanese car maker was headed by several presidents, such as Henry Wallace in 1996, James Miller in 1997, and Mark Field, who was a Ford executive, in 1999. Under Field’s leadership, Mazda had started expanding its product line-up and marked the start of Mazda’s independence from Ford. The global economic crisis further weakened the alliance between the two companies and Ford then sold its part of the stakes on Mazda. In November 2010, Ford’s financial stake on Mazda was reduced to merely 3%, and this allowed Mazda to pursue its own interests and enhance its growth in the emerging markets. The partnership between the two companies is currently confined to several joint ventures and some technological information exchange.
Marty Bay is an Automotive Journalist providing helpful tips and advice which powers the Car Finder at the Car Finder Service website.
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