Like many companies, utility vehicle manufacturer Toyo Kyogo was pushed into the automobile market by an edict by the Japanese government that would limit the country to just three automakers by the end of the 1960s. After building a handful of small cars, they licensed NSU’s rotary engine design, fixed its reliability problems, and launched it as the Mazda Cosmo. This roadster quickly saw success in endurance races, establishing the brand as a serious producer of sports cars.

Ford partnered with Mazda in the early 1970s, leading to numerous cooperative projects, including the Explorer/Navajo, Probe/MX-6, and Escape/Tribute. Meanwhile, enthusiasts flocked to dealerships thanks to rotary-powered Mazda cars like the RX-7 and RX-8, and their reinterpretation of the British roadster, the MX-5 Miata.

Since their separation from Ford in the late 2000s, the automaker has skipped hybrid and turbocharged powertrains to concentrate on getting the most from traditional designs. Dubbed “SkyActiv,” this combination of techniques includes everything from extremely high compression ratio engines to unique uses of lightweight materials. While this strategy has been a success so far, their long-term success will likely depend on them partnering with another automaker.

Mazda´s Fast Facts

  • Last year, the 900,000th MX-5 rolled off the production line, making itthe most popular two-seater sports car in history with sales more than double the #2 seller, the MGB. The next MX-5 platform will underpin the upcoming Alfa Romeo Spider.

  • The 45 year history of rotary-powered Mazda cars came to an end earlier this year as the engine design could no longer be made to meet upcoming fuel economy and emissions regulations.

  • The new SkyActiv technology suite takes every weight-saving method into account. That includes a new welding technique that requires less direct contact between metal pieces, reducing total part size and reducing weight.

  • A diesel will be offered in the next 6, marking the first time such an engine has been available in a Japanese car here in over 25 years.

Famous Mazda Car Models

Although the MX-5 accounts for only a small percentage of sales, it’s the automaker’s best-known car thanks to a strong following among enthusiasts: The MX-5 Cup is one of the SCCA’s most popular racing series. About half of the brand’s sales stem from the compact 3, a car praised by reviewers for its handling.

The first vehicle to use the entire SkyActiv technology suite in North America is the CX-5, a crossover that replaced three other models while providing better fuel economy, interior space and all-around performance. A new SkyActiv-based version of the mid-sized 6 will reach the market as a 2013 model. It won’t be offered with a V6, but the gas four cylinder should be as fast in a straight line as its six cylinder predecessor.

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