Regarding cars, Japan has a completely different past than Europe or the USA. To the mid 19 th century the country was completely isolated from the rest of the world. They have not had carriages for long since transport of people and particularly goods were carried out still at the beginning of the 20th century by human muscular power.
There were only few imported cars by that time and some of them were assembled in the country itself. A few companies try own developments, however, fail due to lack of purchase interest.
The market grows only slowly because there is no adequate road system yet. After the big earthquake in 1923 the advantage of lorries becomes obvious. The big American manufacturers Ford (from 1925) and GM (from 1927) establish assembly plants.
Since 1920 the original name of the Mazda company was 'Toyo Cork Kogyo Ltd.'. It shows that they first deal with cork and only a little later with engineering. As usual for japanese car manufacturers, they start with the construction of bycycles (1930) which slowly develops to the production of tricycles and lorries. Don`t consider the latter to be huge ones! Some of them are even tricycles and the two-stroke engine is very common.
Large-scale mass production does not start before 1953. The capacity of the mother plant Hiroshima grows fast, more than 2 million vehicles are produced until the mid sixties. Obtaining licence for building copies of certain vehicles is an important step in the development of this Japanese company as well. So they reach an agreement with Perkins in England, another more important one with NSU in 1961 for manufacturing rotary piston engines. Mazda is the only remaining famous car producer building a vehicle with Wankel engine. Meanwhile, the number of produced engines since long exceeds one million. In 1991 they even celebrate a victory in the '24 hours of Le Mans'. The Wankel racing car shown above drove nearly 5000 km at an average of 205 km/h.
However, unfortunately, it is the Wankel engine which makes Mazda suffer from the oil-prize crisis more than other manufacturers. This engine which by that time consumed approx. 20 % more fuel than a piston-stroke engine had just reached acceptance at the important US-market, when the sharp rise of the petrol price almost made it a dead article. Mazda had nearly broken all export records. Until the mid seventies 6 million cars were produced.
In Europe the Mazda-Wankel is recognized much more sceptical than in the USA and so the loss in sales figures is less. Very soon succees comes with the introduction of new, attractive models. It is the Mazda 323 which from 1977 on causes a furore with his good over-all capacity. It has lost the typical japanese exterior design and is a worthy competitor for the VW GOLF and the Opel Kadett. Even more successfully due to his favorable prize- power ratio is the Mazda 626 from 1982.
In 1984 the company is not only renamed after it`s most important section, the car production, but is also partially taken over by the Ford Group. This comes along with the establishment of a factory in the USA. One has reached the Top Ten of the world.