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Mazda was created in 1920 as the Toyo Cork Kogyo Co. which produced tools for vehicles and weapons for the Japanese army during World War II. The first car was issued in 1960.
The company has officially been called Mazda from 1984. The name is a mixture of the company’s founder Matsuda Yujiro's name and the old Persian deity Ahura Mazdâ.
The Mazda badge features a winged ‘M’ upside down, representing the company stretching its wings into the future.
Although having started as a producer of tools for vehicles, Mazda started building complete cars from 1931.
In the 1960s Mazda distinguished itself from other Japanese car manufacturers by introducing Wankel rotary-powered vehicles. Today Mazda is the only manufacturer selling rotary as well as piston-powered cars.
Nevertheless the success of rotary-powered engines wore off during the 1970s as these cars were not very fuel efficient. Due to the oil crisis and rising oil prices, customers preferred piston-powered engines.
Both during the 1960 and the 1980s Mazda had financial difficulties leading to a partnership with Ford. The cooperation resulted in mutually used techniques and designs. Ford’s share in Mazda grew over the 1990s eventually leading to Mazda being the first Japanese car manufacturer with a foreign-born CEO.
By 2008 however Ford was having financial difficulties itself and consequently selling a large part of its shares in Mazda. Despite a declining influence, Ford and Mazda have continued their cooperation through a strategic partnership.
Mazda in sport
In 1991 Mazda won the 24 Hours of Le Mans with a Wankel rotary engine in an 787R. Interestingly, rotary engines have been banned in the Le Mans race from 1992.