At Johnsons Mazda, we were delighted to see the iconic Japanese marque celebrate its 100th birthday, joining fellow centenarian car manufacturers such as Fiat, Citroën, Peugeot and Aston Martin.
A ceremony was held to mark the exact date the company was formed, 30th January, with a larger celebration expected in Hiroshima over the summer. Centenary official Akira Marumoto, Representative Director, President and CEO of Mazda, commented on the anniversary:
“Our cars have found friends with many customers from over 130 countries and regions. We would like to express our sincere appreciation to the customers, dealers, suppliers, business partners and the local community, who have supported us over the years through good and bad times, to whom we owe our 100 years of existence.”
But despite its landmark year, did you know that Mazda didn’t build its prototype four-wheel passenger car until 1940 (and it took another 20 years to get one into production)? Let’s take a look at the company’s journey…
Mazda has grown from humble origins – Toyo Cork Kogyo Co. Ltd was established in Hiroshima in 1920 and made corks for nearly a decade before switching to machine tools and vehicles. The company’s first production vehicle was a three-wheel truck that resembled a modern rickshaw, called the Mazda-Go.
During WWII, the firm joined the war effort until the city was struck by an atomic bomb. In 1960, the company built its first passenger car, the R360. Around this time, it partnered with Germany’s NSU to produce the Wankel rotary engine, and launched its first rotary car in 1967: the Cosmo Sport, one of Japan’s most iconic sports cars!
The rotary engine soon became prolific in Mazda models, with the marque producing almost two million such vehicles over the next 40 years, including the iconic RX-7 and what would become Mazda’s signature car, the MX-5.
Mazda officially changed its name to the Mazda Motor Corporation in 1984, and took the rotary engine out on the racetrack. In 1991 it became the first Asian manufacturer to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and is still the only brand ever to win the race with a non-piston engine. Its most recent technological feat is the SKYACTIV-X engine, the first-ever spark-controlled compression engine.
At the ceremony in January, Akira Marumoto said: “As we look ahead to the next 100 years, we will continue to put people first and cherish our ‘uniqueness of co-creating with others.” So, what does the future hold?
This year we expect to see Mazda’s first-ever electric SUV, the MX-30, plus the new CX-90 sporty crossover. The rotary engine is returning as a range-extending power generator for future electric models, giving rise to rumours that the engine will also be used for a new RX-9 sports car. Watch this space!
Discover the current Mazda range here: /mazda/new-cars/