The Mazda Motor Corporation is based in Hiroshima, Japan. They are commonly referred to as just Mazda. In 2015, the company produced more than 1.5 million automobiles worldwide, with nearly a million of them coming from Japanese plants. As of 2015, they were 15th on the scale of largest automakers based on production.
Their name comes from Ahura Mazda which means God of Light. The company used this because they hoped that they could brighten up the perception of compact vehicles. From its humble beginnings as a company that sells three-wheel pickup trucks and small vehicles for the Japanese market, this company has been successful and continued to grow.
A Brief History Of The Mazda Motor Corporation
The Humble Mazda Origin
The Mazda Company started as the Toyo Cork Kogyo Company. It was founded in 1920 but later changed its name to Toyo Kogyo Co. Ltd. Once in the 1920s, they faced bankruptcy and was saved by several business leaders plus the Hiroshima Saving Bank.
Starting in 1931, the company changed its focus from making machinery tools to creating a new line of vehicles. Their first introduction was the Mazda-Go autorickshaw. This three-wheeled open truck version looked like a motorcycle and featured a truck bed or open wagon on the back. Riders steered with a set of handlebars and it was powered by an air-cooled one-cylinder engine/transmission unit.
Toyo Kogyo also produced numerous weapons to be used by Japanese military during World War II. They were responsible for the production of the 30 through 35 series of the Type 99 rifle.
Production of Automobiles
The 1960s brought about a lot of innovations for the company. They introduced the Mazda R360 in 1960 and then the Mazda Carol just two years later. They received inspiration from the NSU Ro 80 and used their engineering knowledge to develop the Wankel rotary engine. It was something that set them apart from the other Japanese automakers at the time.
After forming a new business partnership with NSU, they produced the Cosmo Sport in 1967. Since then, they are the only manufacturer that creates the Wankel-type engine. Both Citroën and NSU stopped using it in the 1970s while the Corvette prototype never saw production.
At the time, they began drawing lots of attention to themselves which helped them to start exporting their vehicles. Both their rotary-powered and piston-powered models started showing up throughout the world. That’s because the rotary engines were popular due to the combination of lighter weights and superior power in comparison to a piston engine. Their competition required a heavier engine like the V6 or V8 to create the same amount of energy. At the time, the RX series and the R100 were the most popular exports for the company.
In 1968, they began their formal operation in Canada under the name Mazda Canada, even though the vehicles made their way into the country almost a decade earlier. Then, in 1970 Mazda North American Operations began. Their sales were so successful in the States that the company produced the Rotary Pickup just for North Americans. It was based off the B-Series which was piston-powered. Even now, Mazda was the only automobile manufacturer that created a truck powered by the Wankel engine. It’s also the only company ever to create a rotary-powered bus, known as the Parkway. This bus was only offered in Japan.
In 1973, Car and Driver Magazine acquired an RX-2 and made a 40,000-mile evaluation. They repurposed it to be a race car and it won a professional race in the States. In fact, it was the first Mazda to win, which led the company to create a heritage of motorsports down the road.
Their rotary success went on until the oil crisis of 1973 hit. Americans demanded vehicles that received better fuel economy, and the rotary-powered models didn’t suit them. In 1975, the company took a huge loss. That’s because they became the least-efficient automobile manufacturer in Japan, they were unable to adjust their excess inventory, plus they relied too heavily on the United States market. Toyo Kogyo was heavily indebted and about to file bankruptcy when the Sumitomo keiretsu group intervened.
Despite the difficulties, the company didn’t turn their back on piston engines. Instead, they added some four-cylinder models to the lineup during the 1970s. Their Familia line became popular worldwide as well as the Capella series.
Mazda changed its focus and made their rotary engine the ideal fit for their sporting line rather than using it in their mainstream vehicles. This began in 1978 with the Mazda RX-7 and continued through the RX-8. They also created the piston-powered lightweight Mazda MX-5 Miata.
Working with the Ford Motor Company
In the 1970s, the Ford Motor Company acquired 24.5% stake in the company and later upped it to 33.4% in 1995. Their partnership resulted in several joint projects between the two automakers. In 1971, the Mazda B-Series turned into a Ford Courier geared toward North America.
They also created the Bongo and Titan trucks to be sold with badging from Ford, mostly in the Pacific and Asian region. During 1980, Mazda started supplying the manual transaxles for Ford as well. The Familia platform became part of Ford models in 1980 as well. It was used for Escort and Laser production. The Capella structure was also used by the company for their Probe and Telstar models. In fact; it was during this time that Ford replaced a good portion of their lineup with Mazda vehicles, especially in the Asia-Pacific region.
When their New Zealand plant closed, Mazda partnered up with Ford New Zealand to create vehicles as well. In North America, the Flat Rock, Michigan plant began producing the 626 sedan and MX-6 sports car.
The Mazda company helped Ford create their 1991 Explorer. In fact, the company sold its own version of it as the Mazda Navajo during 1991 through 1994. Their version wasn’t successful while Ford’s became the top-selling SUV in the U.S. Mazda has also used the Range pickup platform to make its B-Series pickup truck. This sold from 1994 until 2010.
The company was interested in alternative engines, so they produced the first Miller engine in the 1995 Millenia luxury car. This car was discontinued in 2002, but the company continued using the Miller-cycle engine in other automobiles.
To create a newer line of vehicles, Mazda set out to build more modern, popular vehicles. That’s where the Mazda3 and Mazda6 were created. During the financial crisis of 2008, the Ford Company sold some of its stake in Mazda, which reduced them to just 13.4% and gave up control. In 2010, they further lowered their stake to just 3%. Despite that, the two companies remained together on numerous joint ventures in the future. Then, in 2015, they sold the remainder of their shares to Mazda.
Following that transaction, they signed a new agreement with the Toyota Company to form a partnership. Mazda was responsible for supplying fuel-efficient engine technologies to Toyota in exchange for some of their hydrogen fuel cell systems.
Alternative Propulsion Methods
For many decades, Mazda researched using hydrogen-powered cars. They even built a hybrid Premacy minivan with the signature rotary engine that ran on gasoline or hydrogen power. This car only made it to market in Japan.
The company also focuses on using materials for alternative purposes. There have been numerous studies on substances like milk and plastic in an effort to become more environmentally-friendly. Some innovations currently in their lineup include bio-fabric seats and internal consoles.
While they don’t have any hybrid vehicles right now, they are also known for their SkyActiv Technology. This term refers to all the technologies used in the vehicles. When used together, they increase the fuel economy to a level that’s similar to hybrid vehicles. That’s because the engine output increases while reducing the emission level.
The technology includes a high compression ratio for their gasoline engines at 13.0 to 1 and a lower compression ratio in the diesel engines at 14.0 to 1. These are paired with the two-stage turbocharger, lightweight manual transmissions or efficient automatic transmissions, plus electric power steering and a lighter body design.
While they don’t have a hybrid version of their vehicles on the road, it hasn’t stopped them from being labeled the Most Fuel-Efficient Automaker according to Hybrid Cars. 2018 was the fifth consecutive year they were awarded this prestigious honor.
This doesn’t mean that they aren’t interested in developing hybrid or electric cars. In fact, the company claims that by 2035 that most of their cars will be powered by an electric or hybrid motor.
Mazda Safety and Crash Ratings
In 2017, every Mazda model that was tested by the IIHS received the highest safety rating, the Top Safety Pick+ when it was equipped with the adaptive LED headlights and optional front crash prevention.
IIHS is in charge of evaluating crashworthiness of vehicles by putting them through five tests: side crash, small and moderate overlap frontal crash, head restraint and seat test, plus a roof strength test. They also evaluate headlight performance, forward collision warning system, and auto-braking.
The five models that were tested included the CX-3, CX-9, Mazda3, Mazda6, and CX-5. IIHS stated that out of all 16 automakers they evaluated, Mazda was the only company to receive Top Safety Pick+ ratings for each of their models.
Mazda Safety Equipment
The company has a safety philosophy referred to as Mazda Proactive Safety. It’s geared toward respecting the ability of the human driver. The main focus of the program is to enable drivers to recognize hazards and make appropriate judgments.
Their i-ACTIVSENSE safety features help drivers accomplish this. This software utilizes cameras and milliwave radars to judge the surroundings. They also employ ITS (Intelligent Transport Systems) which reduces traffic accidents through telecommunication technology.
Some of the zero-order safety precautions the company takes include providing an optimal driving position and body layout, improving visibility, and supplying an organ-type accelerator pedal.
Active Safety Technology includes an adaptive front-lighting system, high-beam control system, adaptive LED headlights, and driver attention alert. Other technologies include lane-keep assist system, blind spot monitoring, I-ACTIVE AWD, Hill Launch Assist, and Mazda radar cruise control.
Hazard Perception technologies include rear vehicle monitoring, lane departure warning system, emergency signal system, and forward obstruction warning. Hazard Avoidance technologies include Brake Assist and EBD, 4W-ABS, DSC, and TCS.
Pre-Crash Safety Technology includes smart city brake support and acceleration control. Passive Safety Technology consists of the SKYACTIV-BODY, SRS airbag system, a seat belt pre-tensioner and load limiter, shock mitigating front seat, and a rear seat that prevents luggage from entering the cabin. Vehicles are also available with an impact-absorbing soft interior, anti-intrusion brake pedal, impact-absorbing steering system, child seat anchors, and rear seat occupant protection.
Finally, the company also offers impact absorbing bonnet and bumpers to protect pedestrians from impact with a Mazda.
While all automakers face recalls from time to time, Mazda doesn’t often make the news with a massive recall. According to Forbes, Mazda has recalled a total of 5.2 million vehicles since 1985 which is nothing compared to General Motors 99.3 million recalled vehicles. With that said, they still listed them as number two on the highest recall rate because of the ratio between recalled cars and sales.
There was a small issue in 2017 that caused some people disappointment in the company. Mazda recalled 58,000 of the Mazda6 vehicles from 2015 and 2016. The problem stemmed from a short circuit which deactivated the airbags and cut off the power-assisted steering. What upset people is that it took the company 21 months after understanding the issue to finally recall the vehicles.
They said the problem was caused by weld splatter located on the front passenger seats which was rubbing along the wiring harness and leading to a short circuit. Unsuspecting passengers were at risk if a crash occurred and their airbag didn’t deploy. In addition, there would be a loss of power steering at unexpected times.
Consumer Satisfaction Reports & Dependability Ratings
As far as customer satisfaction goes, Mazda seems to be doing well for itself. In fact, a 2018 Consumer Reports study ranked the company in sixth place in terms of owner satisfaction. That’s up one spot since 2017.
While Mazda is an exciting automaker and their cars get rave reviews about how fun they are to drive, the company still lacks in dependability. According to the J.D. Power 2018 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study, Mazda encounters 144 problems per 100 vehicles. While that ranking certainly isn’t the worst on the chart, it does place them at about the middle of the automakers.
There have been numerous awards given to the company for their brand as well as specific vehicles. The brand itself has seen the U.S. News and World Report 2017 Best Car Brand award as well as the EPA recognizing the company as being the most fuel-efficient automaker in the United States.
Here are some awards that the cars have won throughout the years.
– Received Car and Driver ‘10Best’ four years in a row.
– 10 Coolest Cars Under $18,000 from KBB for the 14th year in a row.
– 10 Best Sedans Under $25,000 from KBB.
– Good Housekeeping magazine’s 2018 Best New Car Awards.
Mazda MX-5 Miata
– Car and Driver 10Best car for the 17th time.
– Edmunds.com Top-Rated Convertible.
– Car and Driver 2018 Editors Choice.
– Best Bang for the Buck at the 2017 Atlanta International Auto Show by the Greater Atlanta Automotive Media Association (GAAMA)
– Car and Driver 2016 Editors’ Choice: Compact Crossover.
– Good Housekeeping magazine’s 2018 Best New Car Awards.
– Parents Magazine Best Midsize Crossover from 10 Best Family Cars of 2017.
– 2017 Wards 10 Best Interiors award.
Snapshot of the Company
Mazda’s main office is located in Aki, Hiroshima, Japan. It’s been there since 1920. They also have a Tokyo office situated in Chiyoda and an Osaka office in Kita. Mazda’s North American Operations are based in Irvine, California and have been there since 1971.
There are also other divisions of the company such as Mazda Canada, Mazda Mexico, Mazda Motor Europe, Mazda Motor Logistics Europe, and Mazda Motors UK.
Masahiro Moro is the president and CEO of Mazda North America. He is also the managing executive officer of Mazda Motor Corporation and Chief Marketing Officer. His roles include overseeing company operations in Mexico, the United States, and Puerto Rico. This includes sales, parts and service, marketing, communications, logistics, regional operations, and customer support.
With North America being Mazda’s biggest market, they sold 289,470 vehicles in 2017. This was down 2.8% percent over 2016. In fact, this fell to a 10-year low in 2016. The second greatest market for the brand is in Europe. In 2017, they sold 269,000 vehicles.
Mazda owns numerous companies throughout the world. Here’s a list of some they have a large stake in.
- Mazda Ace Co., Ltd. (100%) – Security and accident protection, engineering operations, and insurance sales
- Kurashiki Kako Co., Ltd. (75%) – Sales and production of vehicle parts
- Toyo Advanced Technologies Co., Ltd. (30%) – Sales and creation of machine tools
- Japan Climate Systems Corporation (33.3%) – Sales and production of parts
- Sanfrecce Hiroshima FC. (17.1%) – professional soccer team
- SMM Auto Finance, Inc. (49%) – automotive retail finance
- MCM Energy Service Co., Ltd. (40%) – steam and electric supply
The Mazda logo has changed numerous times throughout the company’s operations. In 1936, they registered the first logo with an appearance on their three-wheel trucks. The “Triple M” depicted three mountains, to represent Hiroshima. They also formed the letter M in the Latin alphabet. When this M is shown three times, it stood for Mazda Motor Manufacturer. There were also side extensions added to show wings for speed and agility. This logo lasted through 1975.
From 1975 through 1991, Mazda didn’t have their own official symbol. Instead, they use a unique version of their name or the “M” symbol on the dealership signs. Later in the 1980s, they used a blue square situated adjacent to the name Mazda.
For two years, from 1991 until 1992, they adopted a new corporate symbol that represented a flame. It was supposed to mean heartfelt passion. Mazda enthusiasts refer to it as a “Cylon” logo.
From 1992 through 1997, they smoothed out the flame design to make it similar to Renault’s. This logo is often called the “eternal flame.” It stood for the rotary engine design that made the company famous. Since 1997, the company has used a flying “M” design. It symbolizes the company with outstretched wings.
Mazda is known for its clever advertising slogans. Here’s a look at the past slogans that were used:
- The 1970s – Early 1980s: “The more you look, the more you “
- The mid-1980s: “An intense commitment to your total satisfaction, that’s The Mazda “
- The late 1980s: “It Just Feels “
- 1990–1995: “Passion for the “
- 1996: “Get in. Be moved.”
- 1997–2000: “Sakes Alive!” used for the truck line.
One of the most popular advertising campaigns from the company was “Zoom-Zoom.” It began in 2000 and spread across the globe after its North American debut. The earliest ads featured a small boy whispering the tagline.
Since 2011, the company used the same Zoom-Zoom tagline in their other campaign, “What Do You Drive?” In 2015, they launched their newest campaign with the new saying, “Driving Matters.” It paired with the release of a redesigned MX-5. To announce the release, the 60-second long spot titled, “A Driver’s Life,” was aired.
The Mazda company also sponsors a few professional sports teams. These include:
- Sanfrecce Hiroshima (J. League) – once known as the Toyo Kogyo Soccer Club
- Hiroshima Toyo Carp (Nippon Professional Baseball)
- North Melbourne Football Club (Australian Football League)
- ACF Fiorentina (Italian football league)
- Nakhon Ratchasima (Thai football league)
- Western New York Flash (Professional women’s soccer team)
They also sponsor some marathons and races in Japan. They’ve been a league sponsor for the Australian Rugby Championship, which no longer exists. You might have also seen their sponsorship of California’s the Laguna Seca racing course.
Mazda has experienced great success with their Wankel engine in racing competitions. They’ve used the two-rotor motor as well as the three-rotor engine and four-rotor version. The company also raced with some piston-engine cars too. They’ve entered a variety of races throughout the world. In fact, more Mazda-brand cars are raced each week of the year than any other brand. Until 2018, they were the only Japanese car company to win 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Their racing debut happened in 1968 with the Cosmo Sport 110S coupe. The first race was the 84-hour long Marathon de la Route at Nürburgring, and they ended up with a fourth-place finish after they broke an axle following the 81st hour.
The following year, they raced Familia R100 M10A sport coupes. This allowed them to come in fifth and sixth place during the Spa 24 Hours. They also won the Singapore Grand Prix. In 1969, they tried again at the Nürburgring race, but this time with Familias. Unfortunately, they only took fifth place.
The first time the team won with their Wankel engine occurred in 1973 in the U.S. Pat Bedard drove the RX-2 to victory during the IMSA RS event. There wasn’t as much success in 1976 when a Cosmo was raced in Daytona. It only came in 18th place out of 72. With that said, the RX-7, RX-3, and RX-2 have won more of the IMSA events than any of the other vehicles in its class. In 1990, they took their hundredth victory.
In 1991, the 787B, a four-rotor motored car, won the Le Mans 24 Hour race. This was the only vehicle without a piston engine to ever win. In response to the win, rotary engines were banned from Le Mans racing in 1992 but later allowed back in again.
Following that race, Mazda went on to win another decade full of races. They’ve had success with the SCCA competition, pro rally racing, the World Land Speed competition, and several other venues. They’ve even seen the Wankel motors banned from numerous racing events.
Spec Series Racing
Mazda is behind the Cooper Tires Atlantic Championship held in North America. Mazda uses an MZR powered by inline-4 motors that produce 300 horsepower. They can hit speeds of more than 175 mph. The company has several race cars featuring the open wheel design. They make them adaptable to road courses and oval tracks as well.
Since 1991, the company has held The Pro Mazda Championship and it is considered to be one of the events that’s most professionally organized. It provides a popular format from the standpoint of spectators, drivers, and sponsors. Mazda uses just a single engine builder to handle the production. This ensures that they have the right power and aren’t tampered with. Because of their racing tune, their engines are reliable plus they race several years between rebuilds.
Throughout North America, Spec Miata is one of the most affordable and popular racing classes. They intend to extend the chance at competing in production-based, low-cost vehicles that feature minor modifications.
The Mazda Museum is located in Hiroshima, Japan. Even when you first walk into the door, you are greeted with a variety of Mazda brand vehicles. Then, learn the history of the company since 1920 all the way through present day. This is done with the use of several historic cars.
There’s also an entire section dedicated to the rotary engine. You can learn the design of the engine and more about how their racing cars won the Le Mans. Aside from that, they also offer an in-depth description of their manufacturing process. You can see each step of how the CX-5 is produced.
To get an up close and personal view, the company offers a look into the assembly process. The private port is viewable from the observation deck. There’s also a future exhibit that shows where the company is headed. It talks heavily about the environmental efforts being made and plans to reduce CO2 emissions.
There’s also a shop located inside the museum. They sell company merchandise and products to support the Sanfrecce Hiroshima soccer team and Hiroshima Toyo Carp baseball team, both sponsored by Mazda.
Mazda Capital Services
All financing for the company is run through Mazda Capital Services. There are based in Phoenix, Arizona and use JPMorgan Chase Bank for funding. They offer the standard line of financing options from leasing, lease to own, and loans for ownership.
They also feature several incentive programs to give customers some money back in their pocket. Their Loyalty Reward Program gives returning Mazda customers $500 off their next new vehicle purchase. There’s also the Military Bonus Cash offer. This is for eligible military personnel, their spouse and their children. It offers $500 Bonus Cash to someone looking to purchase or lease a new vehicle.
They also have a Mobility Program Cash Bonus. This allows disabled or handicapped drivers to receive reimbursement of up to $1,000 after they purchase and install adaptive drive aids or equipment to assist mobility. It’s available for new Mazda vehicles that are purchased, but not leased.
The company currently has about 600 dealerships in the United States. When searching for a quality Mazda dealership, it’s important to look for accolades from the company. In 2017, there were 123 dealerships recognized with the Mazda Gold Cup award. This honor is for dealerships with a strong dedication and focus on customer service as well as car sales.
To qualify for the Gold Cup, dealerships must maintain high levels of customer satisfaction. They need to ensure that all their staff; service and sales, adhere to training requirements. The dealership must also keep a high-quality image for the company. Only the best dealerships will be able to pass the strict criteria to win this award.
Their higher level of recognition is the President’s Club. This is only awarded to 50 top dealerships in the country. To earn this, they must provide over-the-top customer experiences and have high-performing sales when compared to other similar-sized dealers.
Another place to look for the best dealerships is through the J.D. Power Dealer of Excellence list. At this time, there is only one Mazda dealer listed. It’s Paul Miller Mazda in Lexington, Kentucky.
5 Interesting Facts about Mazda
1 – In 1945, Hiroshima was destroyed by an atomic bomb. Toyo Kogyo’s factory was far enough from the center of the city that it wasn’t damaged. However, considering they were Hiroshima’s largest employer, they lost 400 workers that day.
2 – In 1987, the Mazda Company hit 20 million vehicles produced.
3 – The company uses working assembly factories throughout the world in 21 countries. These production facilities then distribute the cars to over 120 countries.
4 – The MX-5 Roadster made it to the Guinness Book of Records as the bestselling two-passenger sports car ever. At the time of the record, they hit half a million vehicles sold, but by 2015, the number was closer to one million.
5 – The RX-7 was featured in the Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where are Mazdas Made? Mazda models distributed among North America are produced both in the United States and Japan. There are three manufacturing facilities in Japan. In North America, production occurs at the Auto Alliance international facility located in Flat Rock, Michigan or the Kansas City Assembly Plant located in Claycomo, Missouri.
Is Mazda a Ford? They have a small stake in the Mazda company, but not enough to own it.
Are Mazdas Reliable? In dependability reports, they tend to run in the middle of the pack of automakers. They also tend to recall more than the average amount of vehicles.
Is Mazda Japanese? Yes, they are a multinational automaker currently based out of Hiroshima, Japan.
Does Mazda Still Make a Rotary Engine? Their last vehicle with a rotary engine inside was from 2012, the RX 8. They stopped producing them because of the poor emissions and fuel efficiency. With that said, they’ve continued working on the technology and hope to bring their signature feature back shortly.
Who Makes Mazda Engines? They make their own engines. They’ve created several piston engines like the V-twin, Straight 4, and a few V6s. They are also the only producer of the successful Wankel engine.