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About MazdaThe company that would become Mazda was founded in 1920 as a builder of machinery and tools. A tiny three-wheeled truck called the Mazda DA marked the company's entry into the auto market in 1923, and although every vehicle built would wear the Mazda name, the company itself would keep its original name, Toyo Kogyo Co., until 1984.
Following the motorcycle-based trike-truck were a sedan and a number of microcars. As the company began developing larger cars, they invested heavily in rotary engine technology as a means to distinguish themselves in the marketplace.
The first Mazda imported to the U.S., beginning around 1970, was the dual-rotor Cosmo Sport, built from 1967 to 1972. The rotary engine was a fundamentally lighter and smaller design, compared to traditional piston engines of the same displacement, meaning a better power-to-weight ratio and lower hood height.
But they were not... View more fuel-efficient, and with the gas crisis of 1973, consumer tastes shifted toward economy and practicality, and away from anything rotary-powered. Mazda's rotary was relegated to the shrinking high-performance market, and the lineup would become predominantly piston-engined. The small RX-2, RX-3, and RX-4 would do well through the 1970s. The RX-7, sporty and rotary-powered, was released in 1978 and would remain in production until 2002.
Mazda would make major waves in 1989, with the release of the Miata. Styled after the British roadsters of old (the Lotus Elan, in particular), the Miata offered the experience of open-top motoring with sporty, Japanese reliability at an attainable price point. It proved a winning formula--as of February 2011, Mazda had sold 900,000. (The Miata has been known as the MX-5 since 1998.)
The GLC (Great Little Car) debuted stateside in 1977 as a subcompact 3- or 5-door hatchback. It would later be renamed the 323 and then the Protege, and would remain in production until 2003, replaced by the Mazda 3 in 2004. The commercially successful Mazda 3 has been generally praised for its sporty handling and low price point.
The mid-sized 626, produced from 1979-2002, would be replaced by the Mazda 6 in 2003.
Mazda has produced its MPV minivan since 1989. The acronym MPV has actually come into wide use recently as a general term referring to small SUVs built on compact car chassis.
The compact crossover Tribute (2001) is nearly identical to its brand-engineered siblings, the Mercury Mariner and Ford Escape, with the exception of its firmer suspension, which is in keeping with the Tribute's more performance-oriented character.
The compact Premacy MPV was released in 1999. A plug-in electric version is in development and is planned as a competitor to the Nissan Leaf. Mazda has also developed a functional prototype Premacy that uses a "bi-fuel" two-rotor Wankel engine, capable of running on either gas or hydrogen. View less
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