Mazda Motor Corporation is a Japanese automotive manufacturer based
in Hiroshima, Japan.
During 2007, Mazda produced almost 1.3 million vehicles for global
sales. The majority of these (nearly 1 million) were produced in
the company's Japanese plants, with the remainder coming from a
variety of other plants worldwide.
Following their long-held fascination with alternative engine
technology, Mazda introduced the first Miller cycle engine for
automotive use in the Millenia luxury sedan of 1995. Though the
Millenia (and its Miller-type V6 engine) were discontinued in
2002, the company has recently introduced a much smaller Miller-cycle
four-cylinder engine for use in their Demio starting in 2008.
As with their leadership in Wankel technology, Mazda remains (so
far) the only automaker to have used a Miller-cycle engine in
the automotive realm.
Further financial difficulties at Mazda during the 1990s (partly
caused by losses related to the 1997 Asian financial crisis) caused
Ford to increase its stake to a 33.9-percent controlling interest
on 31 March 1997. In 1997, Henry Wallace was appointed President,
and he set about restructuring Mazda and setting it on a new strategic
direction. He laid out a new direction for the brand including
the design of the present Mazda marque; he laid out a new product
plan to achieve synergies with Ford, and he launched Mazda's digital
innovation program to speed up the development of new products.
At the same time, he started taking control of overseas distributors,
rationalized dealerships and manufacturing facilities, and driving
much needed efficiencies and cost reductions in Mazda's operations.
Much of his early work put Mazda back into profitability and laid
the foundations for future success. Ford executive Mark Fields,
who took over as Mazda's CEO later, has been credited with expanding
Mazda's new product lineup and leading the turnaround during the
early 2000s. Ford's increased influence during the 1990s allowed
Mazda to claim another distinction in history, having maintained
the first foreign-born head of a Japanese car company (starting
under Henry Wallace (Scottish)). The marque has since returned
to a Japanese-born CEO, under Hisakazu Imaki since 2003.
Mazda has also conducted research in hydrogen-powered vehicles
for several decades. As a major step in this effort, the company
plans to release a hydrogen-fueled hybrid car in 2008, the Premacy
Hydrogen RE compact minivan. The prototype has so far proven capable
of traveling up to 200 kilometers (120 miles).
Amidst the world financial crisis in the fall of 2008, reports
emerged that Ford was contemplating a sale of its stake in Mazda
as a way of streamlining its asset base. BusinessWeek explained
the alliance between Ford and Mazda has been a very successful
one, with Mazda saving perhaps $90 million a year in development
costs and Ford "several times" that, and that a sale
of its stake in Mazda would be a desperate measure. On November
18 2008 Ford announced that it would be selling a 20% stake in
Mazda bringing its stake to 13.4%, and surrendering control of
the company. The following day Mazda announced that, as part of
the deal, it was buying back 6.8% of its shares from Ford. It
was also reported that Hisakazu Imaki would be stepping down as
chief executive, to be replaced by Takashi Yamanouchi.
In the racing world, Mazda has had substantial success with both
their signature Wankel-engine cars (in two-rotor, three-rotor,
and four-rotor forms) as well as their piston-engine models. Mazda
vehicles and engines compete in a wide variety of disciplines
and series around the world.It is also known that on any one day
in the USA Mazda has the most cars on the race track, proving
Mazda's competition debut was on October 20, 1968 when two Mazda
Cosmo Sport 110S coupes entered the 84 hour Marathon de la Route
ultra-endurance race at the N?rburgring, one finishing in fourth
place and the other breaking an axle after 81 hours. The next
year, Mazda raced Mazda Familia R100 M10A coupes. After winning
the Singapore Grand Prix in April 1969 and coming in fifth and
sixth in the Spa 24 Hours (beaten only by Porsche 911s), on October
19, 1969, Mazda again entered the 84 hour N?rburgring race with
four Familias. Only one of these finished, taking fifth place.
In 1976, Ray Walle, owner of Z&W Mazda, drove a Cosmo (Mazda
RX-5) from the dealership in Princeton, New Jersey, to Daytona,
won the Touring Class Under 2.5 Liters at the 24 Hours of Daytona,
and drove the car back to New Jersey. The Cosmo placed 18th overall
in a field of 72. The only modifications were racing brake pads,
exhaust, and safety equipment.
After substantial successes by the Mazda RX-2 and Mazda RX-3,
the Mazda RX-7 has won more IMSA races in its class than any other
model of automobile, with its hundredth victory on September 2,
1990. Following that, the RX-7 won its class in the IMSA 24 Hours
of Daytona race ten years in a row, starting in 1982. The RX-7
won the IMSA Grand Touring Under Two Liter (GTU) championship
each year from 1980 through 1987, inclusive.
In 1991, a four-rotor Mazda 787B (2622 cc actual, rated by FIA
formula at 4708 cc) won the 24 Hours of Le Mans auto race outright.
The 787B's triumph remains unparalleled, as it remains the only
non-piston-engined car ever to win at Le Mans, and Mazda is still
the only team from outside Western Europe or the United States
to have won at Le Mans — ironically after Nissan had closed down
its World Sportscar Championship programme and Toyota had opted
to take a sabbatical for most of 1991 in order to develop its
3.5 litre TS010. This led to a ban on rotary engines in the Le
Mans race starting in 1992, which has since been rescinded. After
the 1991 race, the winning engine was publicly dismantled for
internal examination, which demonstrated that despite 24 hours
of extremely hard use it had accumulated very little wear.
The Le Mans win in 1991 followed a decade of class wins from
other Mazda prototypes, including the 757 and 767. The Sigma MC74
powered by a Mazda 12A engine was the first engine and team from
outside Western Europe or the United States to finish the entire
24 hours of the Le Mans race, in 1974. Mazda is also the most
reliable finisher at Le Mans (with the exception of Honda, who
have entered only three cars in only one year), with 67% of entries
finishing. Mazda will return to prototype racing in 2005 with
the introduction of the Courage C65 LMP2 car at the American Le
Mans Series race at Road Atlanta. This prototype racer uses the
Renesis Wankel from the RX-8.
Mazdas have also enjoyed substantial success in World Land Speed
competition, SCCA competition, drag racing, pro rally competition
(the Familia appeared in the WRC several times during the late
'80s and early '90s), the One Lap of America race, and other venues.
Wankel engines have been banned for some time from international
Formula One racing, as well as from United States midget racing,
after Gene Angelillo won the North East Midget Racing Association
championship in 1985 with a car powered by a 13B engine, and again
in 1986 in a car powered by a 12A engine.