|List of models current and historical produced by Mazda|
Possibly the most daring of the Japanese car makers.
Mazda of Japan can trace its heritage back to the 1930's when it was created by Japanese industrial giant Toyo. Initial products were mainly Trucks although work on passenger cars was well underway by the 1960's.
Mazda Motor began as the Toyo Cork Kogyo Co., Ltd, founded in Japan in 1920. Toyo Kogyo moved from manufacturing machine tools to vehicles, with the introduction of the Mazda-Go in 1931. The company formally adopted the Mazda name in 1984, though every automobile sold from the beginning bore that name. The first four-wheel car, the Mazda R360 was introduced in 1960, followed by the Mazda Carol in 1962.
The Ford Motor Company has owned 25% of Mazda since 1979, and its stake was increased to a 33% controlling interest in 1996 when Mazda fell into financial crisis. Ford has based many of its models on Mazdas, such as the Probe, late model (North American) Escort and Mercury Tracer, and the co-developed Escape/Mazda Tribute.
The 1979 deal paved way for Ford selling badge-engineered Mazdas in Asia and Australia, such as the Laser and Telstar. These models replaced the models from Ford Europe sold throughout the 1970s. Ford also used the Mazda models to establish its own retail presence in Japan - the Autorama dealers sold these cars, plus the occasional Ford US and Ford Europe models.
The badge-engineered models came to an end in the early 2000s, as Ford replaced the Laser with its own Focus, and Telstar with its own Mondeo. Ford and Mazda have moved onto collaboration in a more fundamental sense, by way of platform sharing.
The year 1960 was the birth of Mazda as an automaker. In just this decade, the marque progressed from a 16 horsepower (12 kW) keicar to a Wankel engined sports car, the Mazda Cosmo. Mazda also entered the United States market at the end of the decade.
Internationally, the 1970s were the heyday of Mazda as a performance leader. The Wankel "rotary" engines outperformed their piston-based competitors by a large margin, and Mazda made the most of the powerplant by putting it in almost every product they sold, from the Rotary Pickup to the RX-7, and even the large Luce sedan. The only exception was the Mazda Chantez keicar, because other car makers vetoed the move.
However, the 1970s also saw Mazda's first financial crisis, which led to Ford taking a 25% stake in the company. The first RX-7 released in 1978 would be a strong image leader for Mazda, but actual sales revival would not come until the early 1980s.
The 1980s saw Mazda transition from a niche Japanese player to a part of the global Ford empire. Having said that, the 80s saw the most mainstream success for Mazda. The early-80s 323 (GLC in North America) and 626 were massive hits, with the 323 taking the number one spot in Japanese car sales, overtaking the Toyota Corolla. (This is still very significant today whenever a non-Toyota tops the sales charts).
Mazda also contributed to Ford's lineup, most notably with the MX-6-based Ford Probe. Mazda also began building the new-for-1988 626/MX-6 in the United States. U.S. production was initiated via a joint venture with Ford called AutoAlliance International.
Mazda finished the decade with the revolutionary Eunos Roadster (Mazda MX-5 or Miata outside Japan) sports car (for the 1989 model year). This model revitalized the world sports car market, which was filled at the time with expensive, heavy GT cars. Despite complaints of plaigiarising the Lotus Elan, the Miata has been very successful till this day.
The 1990s were a decade of decline for Mazda. The third-generation RX-7 sold poorly, and the Miata could not sustain the company's sales. The rest of the lineup was poorly-received in the United States and Japan; their popularity in Europe didn't seem to make up for the losses.
In the late 1980s, Mazda embarked on a disastrous attempt to diversify its brand names. It chose to do so because market research revealed that the Mazda brand has the connotation of economic, budget cars both in Japan and abroad. With the aim of doubling its sales, Mazda launched three new brands in Japan, Eunos, Efini and Autozam. Eunos was to have a counterpart overseas in the US-market Amati luxury division, and Xedos in Europe. However plans for Amati was pulled at the last minute, and the rumored V12-engined flagship was shelved.
The number brands was also an attempt to match Toyota and Nissan, both of which had multiple chains in Japan. A common opinion is that the sheer number of models had overwhelmed the company - in 1993 Mazda sold seven models based on the 626, yet they only amounted to 1/3 the sales achieved by the comparable Toyota.
In other markets, Mazda's identity crisis saw it confused over which logo to adopt. The "mazDa" lettertype was introduced in 1975 as part of Japan's first CAD-assisted corporate identity redesign. In 1991 a new logo was introduced, but was soon swapped for a rounded-off version because the original had an uncomfortable resemblance to Renault's logo. The new version is consistently used in 1990s Mazdas, but never became as well known as the lettertype. To resolve this issue, Mazda commissioned for a new logo in 1998, which it uses till this day and features in considerably larger sizes on every model.
Mazda and Ford continued joint efforts. In 1994, the Mazda B-Series line was split between an international (Mazda-designed) version and North American clone of the Ford Ranger. In 1998, Mazda and Ford opened a new plant in Thailand, AutoAlliance Thailand. Patterned after Mazda's Hofu plant, AAT is now an important manufacturing location for the company.
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