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The company began as began as Toyo Cork Koygo Company, founded by Jujiro Matsuda in 1920. The name was shortened to Toyo Koygo Company Ltd in 1927.


The company began as began as Toyo Cork Koygo Company, founded by Jujiro Matsuda in 1920. The name was shortened to Toyo Koygo Company Ltd in 1927.

Mazda is named for Ahura Mazda, the creator and sole God of Zoroastrianism, the old Iranian religion predating Islam. Although it may have reached Matsuda through Manichaeism, a parallel Persian religion. In either case, (Ahura = light, Mazda = wisdom) in the Avestan language. The name was trademarked by General Electric in 1909 for their tungsten filament light bulbs and licensed the name to many other light bulb manufacturers for similarly constructed bulbs.

The original vehicle was a three-wheel truck called a Mazda in 1931. They planned to build passenger vehicles but were sidetracked when the government called upon factories to manufacture wartime goods. It would be many years before the Japanese economy recovered and their first passenger car would not come until the Mazda R360 coupe in 1960. That was quickly followed by the Mazda Carol in 1962. Mazda formed a limited partnership with Wankel and NSU to build a rotary engine, and Mazda became the only company to have a rotary, gasoline and diesel engines.

The 1964 NSU Wankelspider was the first production rotary engine vehicle and NSU created several other cars using the Wankel. But they had problems with the rotor seals in the combustion chamber and the cars developed a bad reputation. This ultimately led to a buyout by Volkswagen, who discontinued the brand and revived the dormant Audi brand in the process.

Although several auto manufacturers showed interest in the Wankel engine, Mazda was the only one to license the technology. The same year that the Wankelspider made its debut, Mazda showed off a concept Wankel sports car at the Summer Olympics in Sapporo, Japan. Largely unchanged, that car was put into production in 1967 as the Cosmo Sport 110S.

Toyo Kogyo began exporting to Canada, and Australia in 1968 and tackled the American market in 1970. Automobile emission regulations were beginning to take effect and the Wankel's output was easier to clean up and it maintained more horsepower than conventional engines in doing so, which made it an ideal engine for the era. It didn't get good gas mileage but that wasn't an issue until 1973. That, a devaluation of the dollar and a few other factors combined to put Mazda in financial trouble in the late Seventies. Ford purchased 7% of Mazda in 1979, a year after the flagship RX-7 first appeared and owned 33.4% by 1996. It's thought that they may have been after the rotary patents originally but found that Mazda could improve their small cars instead.  The financial trends eventually reversed to the point that it was Ford that found itself in trouble and they sold of all but 3% by 2010.

Mazda was the name of the vehicles but it was never the company name until 1984. They could no longer rely on the rotary as their selling point so they built upon the spirit of the RX-7 and fostered a company philosophy of building cars for enthusiasts, a budget BMW. They remain the only Japanese manufacturer to have won the 24 Hours of Le Mans despite several expensive attempts from Nissan and Toyota. They rebounded with moderately successful cars like the 323 and the 626. There have been several attempts to capitalize on the RX-7 and the rotary but the true flagship today is the Miata MX-5, introduced in 1990.

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