As the celebrations of Mazda’s 100th year draw to a close, we explore a century of innovation across industries as well as groundbreaking accomplishments achieved by humankind.
Toyo Cork Kogyo Co., Ltd is founded as a cork manufacturer in Hiroshima, Japan. Cork trees were abundant in the region and Mazda would later pay homage to its humble beginnings with the MX-30’s cork console.
Jujiro Matsuda becomes Mazda’s president and oversees the company’s transformation into an automotive manufacturer at the turn of the decade. Thirty years later, his son Tsuneji Matsuda becomes the third president of Mazda.
Route 66, the legendary road trip highway, is established. Spanning over 2,400 miles across eight states and three different time zones, the route originally connected Chicago to Los Angeles. One year later, Toyo Cork Kogyo Co., Ltd became Toyo Kogyo Co., Ltd.
The 1930s prove to be a fundamental decade for transportation. As well as Mazda turning its attention from cork to cars in the form of a three-wheeled Mazda-go truck in 1931, Amelia Earhart becomes the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean just one year later. In 1936, aviation pioneer Heinrich Focke invents the first helicopter to take flight.
Although Mazda starts the decade building a prototype of a small passenger car, the outbreak of World War II soon halts production. In 1945, the atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima, causing mass destruction. Mazda’s surviving workshops are used as emergency hospitals and the company distributes medical supplies, helps to reunite families, and houses national broadcasters at its plant. Despite the devastation, Mazda resumes assembly of its vehicles within four months of the attack, proving that through adversity comes great strength.
In the same year athlete and neurologist Roger Bannister runs the first sub-four-minute mile, Mazda participates in the inaugural Tokyo Motor Show. Held at Hibiya Park, the 10-day event attracts 547,000 visitors and Mazda presents the GCZ, CLY, and CHTA three-wheel trucks.
The double-helix DNA structure is revealed by James Watson and Francis Crick. One of the most significant scientific moments of the 20th century, the discovery sees them awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962.
CUMULATIVE PRODUCTION OF MAZDA VEHICLES REACHES 200,000. SOON AFTER, THE MAZDA COMMERCIAL VEHICLE PROGRAM INCLUDES AROUND 30 MODELS—from small mini-vans to the Mazda Romper, a classic 1-ton pickup truck.
Cumulative production of Mazda vehicles reaches one million.
THE SWINGING SIXTIES
The 1960s are a tumultuous combination of world firsts and pivotal change. In 1960, the Mazda R360 Coupe makes its world debut, selling 4,500 units on the day of its launch.
Meanwhile, Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh reach the deepest depths of the ocean—the Mariana Trench, which is deep enough to submerge Mount Everest at 31,000ft below sea level.
In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gives his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, which played an important role in passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. One year later, Mazda presents a Cosmo prototype with a rotary engine at the Tokyo Motor Show, becoming the first manufacturer to successfully use it on a multitude of vehicles and forever making the rotary engine synonymous with the Mazda name.
Towards the end of the decade, Dr. Christiaan Barnard completes the first heart transplant in South Africa. Mazda expands globally, exporting vehicles to Europe and opening offices overseas. In 1969, the Luce Rotary Coupe is unveiled and becomes known as “Lord of the Road,” while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin defy gravity as the first men to walk on the Moon.
The 1970s is one of Mazda’s most important decades for innovation and racing heritage. In 1972, the Mazda RX-3 makes its racing debut, winning the Fuji Grand Prix race. One year later, Car and Driver magazine repurposes an RX-2, which becomes the first Mazda to win a professional race in the United States. Following the launch of the Savanna RX-7 in 1978, it becomes a force to be reckoned with, scoring an unprecedented record of 100 victories in the American IMSA series races. Three years later, the RX-7 takes its first European victory at the 24 Hours of Spa in Belgium with Tom Walkinshaw and Pierre Dieudonné behind the wheel. In 1995, Mazda Australia builds the RX-7 SP to compete in the Australian GT Championships, winning the Eastern Creek 12 Hour race.
Space Invaders is created by Japanese designer Tomohiro Nishikado, revolutionizing the video game industry forever.
CUMULATIVE PRODUCTION OF MAZDA VEHICLES REACHES 10 MILLION.
Japan becomes the largest auto-producing country in the world, with a reputation for reliable cars and detail-oriented engineering.
Sony releases the first commercial compact disc player in Japan, the Sony CDP-101.
The modern internet is created, which opens the door to wide public use with the development of the World Wide Web. The above photo of pop parody group Les Horribles Cernettes was the first-ever to be uploaded online.
Mazda officially changes its name from Toyo Kogyo Co., Ltd to Mazda Motor Corporation. The Mazda name comes from Ahura Mazda, the god of harmony, intelligence, and wisdom from the earliest civilization in West Asia.
On the same day the Berlin Wall falls, the Mazda 323 receives one of the most important prizes in Germany, the Golden Steering Wheel, for the second time. The awards ceremony is held near Checkpoint Charlie, where citizens from West and East Berlin pass freely for the first time in nearly 30 years.
Mazda unveils its lightweight sports car, the MX-5 Miata at the Chicago Auto Show. The world’s best-selling roadster (its name stands for “Mazda Experiment” and being project number 5) quickly receives international acclaim, even appearing in Japanese arcade game “Super Chase: Criminal Termination” in 1992. The MX-5 Miata goes on to win multiple prestigious awards from the automotive industry and makes Car and Driver’s 10 Best list 17 times. Three more generations of the MX-5 Miata follow, and in 2019 all 3,000 units of the 30th Anniversary model in the U.S. sell out within hours.
Mazda wins 24 Hours of Le Mans with the rotary-powered 787B, the first Japanese manufacturer to secure this victory. Drivers Johnny Herbert, Volker Weidler, and Bertrand Gachot all play a part in winning the world’s most demanding endurance race.
Mazda’s winged brand symbol is unveiled. The wings, which are shaped in the letter "M” inside the oval, represent Mazda’s dedication to pursuing continuous growth, capturing its pioneering spirit.
In California, Google is founded by students Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and becomes the most popular search engine of all time.
Mazda NZ sets the Guinness World Record for the largest gathering of MX-5 Miatas in one place, with 291 roadsters in Alexandra Park, Auckland. Eight years later, Mazda fans break this record with 683 MX-5 Miatas joining a 1,450-strong procession of Mazdas in Lelystad, The Netherlands.
Protons circulate in CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) for the first time, marking the end of years of design and construction.
Paving the way for the next generation of vehicles, Mazda reveals the beginnings of Skyactiv Technology, which comprises all-new safety devices, lightweight construction, and highly efficient engines. Soon after, Mazda’s Kodo—Soul of Motion design philosophy is revealed in the form of the Shinari concept car.
For the first time in sporting history, women represent every competing nation at the London Olympics, including Saudi Arabia, which sends two female athletes to compete in judo and the 800 meters.
Racer Michael Johnson becomes the first-ever paralyzed driver on the IndyCar circuit, racing in the Mazda-powered USF2000 series.
The Ice Bucket challenge takes social media by storm and raises $115 million for research into ALS, a disease affecting nerves in the brain and spinal cord.
The Mazda Vision Coupe wows the crowd at the prestigious Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este in Italy. Mazda’s Kodo philosophy takes the car’s design to another level of sophistication and the car is the recipient of multiple awards.
The Mazda CX-30 is revealed and wins Mazda its eighth accolade in the Red Dot Design Award competition as well as a five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP and ANCAP. The car later gains the 2020 Top Safety Pick rating when equipped with specific headlights by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Mazda celebrates 100 years of triumphs, challenges, and pioneering spirit. Head of Global Design Ikuo Maeda receives more prestigious awards, including Autocar’s Design Hero accolade and the Mazda3’s World Car Design of the Year award. The rotary-powered RX-VISION GT3 CONCEPT makes a jubilant appearance in Gran Turismo Sport.
At the 17th Tokyo Motor Show in 1970, Mazda exhibited a concept hybrid car (Rotary engine XEV), the EX 005. Fifty years later, Mazda has successfully brought its vision to life in the form of the all-electric MX-30, which will go on sale worldwide in the next few years. The launch of Mazda’s first EV marks a watershed moment for the company.
But electrification is only one of a suite of technologies Mazda is actively working on. The manufacturer is also developing a sustainable algae biofuel in collaboration with Hiroshima University and the Tokyo Institute of Technology, and is designing a new “large vehicle” architecture. This will deliver greater comfort and space, and emphasize Mazda’s long-term commitment to the driving experience and safety.
Finally, the company is also developing an in-line six-cylinder engine that promises to provide an “exceptional” driving feel. With a future rooted in sustainability, innovation, and state-of-the-art technology, the next 100 years are looking bright for Mazda.