We’d be remiss, even though the news is a few days old, if we didn’t recognize Mazda on its 100th year of existence. Based in Hiroshima, Japan, Mazda was founded in 1920 as Toyo Cork Kogyo Corporation, specializing in the production of both cork and machine tools. By 1931, it was turning out tiny, three-wheeled pickup trucks and other small vehicles for its home market. Mazda’s great breakthrough as an auto manufacturer came in 1961, when it licensed the rights to build engineer Felix Wankel’s rotary-cycle engine from NSU of West Germany, and then installed the engine in its groundbreaking Cosmo sport coupe. The rotary engine gave Mazda its entree into the U.S. market in 1970s, and despite some rotary issues including reliability and emissions output, Mazda was here to stay. The rotary remained part of Mazda’s powertrain lineup until relatively recently.
Mazda now clicks along offering vehicles ranging from subcompacts to midsize SUVs, plus, naturally, the MX-5 Miata. In terms of power, Mazda’s now focusing on its SKYACTIV-G engine technology, a more orthodox 2.5-liter turbocharged inline-four than the rotary represented. Mazda’s operations in North America are based in Irvine, California.