Mazda celebrates a century of iconic automotive design

posted on Monday, 2nd March 2020 by Chris Jenkins

Automotive  Industrial design 


Japanese car manufacturer Mazda is celebrating a century of design innovation this year.

From Hiroshima cork producer to innovative global carmaker, Mazda celebrates 100 years of design and engineering innovation in 2020. Mazda was the first Asian brand to win Le Mans in 1991, commercially launched the rotary engine in the iconic Cosmo Sport 110S, created the world’s best-selling two seat roadster, the Mazda MX-5, which has sold over one million cars since its launch in 1989 and introduced the first compression ignition petrol engine, the Skyactiv-X.

Mazda was a Hiroshima cork producer until Jujiro Matsuda, an industrialist, took charge of Toyo Cork Kogyo Co., Ltd in 1921 and transformed the business first into a machine tool producer then a vehicle manufacturer.

The first model was a three-wheeled truck, the Mazda-Go, that went on sale in 1931. It proved popular and underwent continual improvement, for example receiving an innovative four-speed transmission in 1938 that reduced fuel consumption by 20 per cent.

Mazda MX5 Premiere 2014_9_1_B

Mazda MX30 Electric Vehicle 2019_10_01_F

After the Second World War, truck manufacturing resumed only a few months after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Commercial vehicles remained the focus after the war and the first passenger car arrived in 1960 with the Mazda R360.

In 1961, the company signed a licensing deal with German carmaker NSU to develop and produce its new compact, lightweight Wankel rotary engines, and in 1967 Mazda engineers developed the futuristic Mazda Cosmo Sport 110S, the world’s first production model with a rotary engine.

It was after the company name officially changed to Mazda Motor Corporation in 1984 that it really showed its love of driving with the launch in 1989 of a lightweight roadster called the Mazda MX-5 at a time when two-seater convertibles were virtually extinct. Today, four model generations later, the Mazda MX-5 remains the top-selling roadster in history, having surpassed the one-million-production-units mark in 2016.

Mazda Go Production Crop

Mazda Autozam 1992_10_1_A

Today, Mazda has a range of cars, designed using the Kodo – Soul of Motion design language that are winning awards across the globe and the brand continues to defy convention with the launch of its first electric vehicle, the Mazda MX-30.

A model for the future, it also pays respect to Mazda’s past with a cabin featuring eco-friendly cork, harking back to the company’s humble beginnings as Toyo Cork Kogyo.

 “As we look ahead to the next 100 years, we will continue to challenge ourselves to create unique products, technologies and experiences that our customers love,” said Mazda President and CEO Akira Marumoto.

Chris Jenkins

Inside ID contributor Chris Jenkins is the Editor of Arts & Collections, and a freelance technology and industry journalist...

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