As Mazda celebrates the 100th anniversary of its founding, here are a few tidbits from the Japanese automaker’s history:
• It started as a Hiroshima cork manufacturer until it was taken over in 1921 by industrialist Jujiro Matsuda, who transformed Toyo Cork Kogyo Co. into a machine tool producer.
• Its first vehicle was not an automobile but a three-wheeled motorcycle/truck named Mazda-Go that went into production in 1931 and continued throughout the 1930s.
• As the Second World War ended, manufacturing resumed in Hiroshima only a few months after the atomic bombing.
• Its first passenger car, the tiny R360, debuted in 1960.
• Mazda became a major manufacturer of rotary-engine vehicles after it signed a licensing deal in 1961 with NSU of Germany for the Felix Wankel design, and then succeeded in ironing out the engine’s flaws to power thousands of cars and pickup trucks, culminating in the popular RX-7 and RX-8 sports coupes and convertibles.
• Mazda became the first Asian brand to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race in 1991, and the RX-7 is the winningest GT car in the history of IMSA racing.
The century mark was celebrated at company headquarters on Thursday.
“Mazda originated as a company producing cork and then took the path to manufacturing automobiles,” president and chief executive Akira Marumoto told the crowd at the centennial celebration. “Now, our cars have found friends with many customers from over 130 countries and regions.”
The automaker will continue its centennial observance throughout 2020, next with a display at the Geneva Motor Show in March.