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Mazda was founded in 1920 by Jujiro Matsuda in Hiroshima. First the company was engaged in the cork refinement and from 1928 on manufactured also machine parts. Since 1939, Mazda has been manufacturing rock drill and motorcycles. The first motor vehicle introduced in 1931, was called Mazda-GO. From now on the company’s name was used, which refers to the ancient Persian deity of wisdom and sentence “Ahura Mazda” and at the same time reminds of the founder.
Like other manufacturers, Mazda was also involved in the Second World War’s armaments industry of the country. Therefore, the first prototype of a sedan with four seats couldn’t be produced as standard. Mazda, heavily hit by the bombing in Hiroshima in 1945, provided its factory workshops as military hospital.
Initially, the focus was on a commercial vehicle production. At the end of 1945 the trucks with three wheels were exported to India. The expansion of the commercial vehicle program in the late 1950s led to the Pyramid Vision in 1960. The car production could begin. The first Mazda from a large series was the R360, a city coupé. The small limousine Carol 360 from 1962 derived from it. In the same year the compact Familia 800 followed. Through its European appearance and its Bertone design, the Mazda Luce was able to stand out in the upper middle class on the Japanese and US market from 1965 onwards.
In the licensing business, relationships between Japanese and German manufacturers were established in the early 1960s. When Mazda in 1961 acquired the license of the German NSU for the circular piston or the Wankel engine, it was an absolute novelty.
Two years later, Mazda had developed an engine as the first two-disc circular piston engine. The first model of this type was the Mazda Cosmo Sport 110S in 1967. The innovation and perseverance of Mazda was rewarded. The Familia and Luce models were equipped with the efficient circular piston engine. Meanwhile the coupés enabled the market entry in Europe in 1967.
The company was first present in Norway, before opening its headquarters in Germany in 1972. After a year the popularity of the middle-class series 616 and the coupé RX-3 was already shown. While in the seventies Mazda secured its place in the world's top ten and was able to celebrate sales records: In Germany from 1977 the model 323 was particularly decisive for the rising popularity and visibility on German roads. For a long time, the 323 was among the best-selling import models of the compact class. The 323 was held six generations up to the year 2003. It was particularly special, that it was on the market in both German states from 1981 on.
The middle-class model Mazda 626 from 1978 was another sales hit. For many years it was the best-selling Japanese model in Germany, which meant a doubling of company’s sales. The family car 626 was marketed until 2012, up to the fifth generation and revised as Ford Telstar in Asia, Australia and South Africa. In that class-like manner, the Mazda RX-7 appeared briefly later. The RX-7 has entered with its circular piston engine, both known on the road and in the automobile industry. It became the world's best-selling sports car.
Since 1989 the manufacturer has been able to triumph with the Roadster MX-5, which was very well received in Europe and the US. It was going to be the best-selling roadster in the world and a role model for all open sports cars.
But the most popular model in Germany is the Mazda 6. It is available in three vehicle bodies. As a small car the Mazda 2 is offered, since 2008 also in a sport version. Though the compact limousine Mazda 3 MPWS is also sporty. The estate car and compact Van Madza 5 was produced for a decade until 2015.
In the field of off-road vehicles, the manufacturer offers the smaller CX-5, until 2012 the middle CX-7 and the seven-seater CX-9, which is likely to step into the European market in its the second generation.
One of the highlights of the company's history is its participation in sports competition. The RX-7 only brought the IMSA-GTP Championship eight times in a row and made it possible to win also the 24 Hours of the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.
The 1961 licensing agreement for the further development of the Wankel engine and the circular piston made Mazda and its models benefit again 30 years later: The Mazda 787B was the first Japanese automobile giant to win the significant 24 hours of Le Mans.