Mazda Motor Corporation is a Japanese automotive manufacturer based in Hiroshima, Japan. As of 2006, the company is expected to produce 1.25 million vehicles per year with sales evenly divided among Japan, Europe, and North America. The Ford Motor Company owns 33.4% of Mazda.
The name of the company is explained to be derived from Ahura Mazda, the god worshipped by Zoroastrians. It is also said that Mazda coincides with the anglicized pronunciation of the founder’s name, Jujiro Matsuda, who was interested in spirituality, and chose to rename it in honor of both his family and the Zoroastrians. Mazda means “wisdom” in the ancient Persian language. In Japanese, the company is referred to either by its anglicised name (Mazda Motors) or as Matsuda, after its founder.
Mazda began as the Toyo Cork Kogyo Co., Ltd, founded in Japan in 1920. Toyo Kogyo moved from manufacturing machine tools to vehicles, with the introduction of the Mazda-Go in 1931, although they produced weapons for the Japanese military throughout the Second World War. The company formally adopted the Mazda name in 1984, though every automobile sold from the beginning bore that name. The first four-wheel car, the Mazda R360 was introduced in 1960, followed by the Mazda Carol in 1962.
The Ford Motor Company had owned 15% of Mazda, and its stake was increased to a 33.4% controlling interest in 1996 when Mazda fell into financial crisis. Ford executive Mark Fields is credited with Mazda’s turnaround. Ford has based many of its models on Mazdas, such as the Probe, late model (North American) Escort and Mercury Tracer, and the co-developed Escape/Mazda Tribute.
The 1979 deal paved way for Ford selling badge-engineered Mazdas in Asia and Australia, such as the Laser and Telstar. These models replaced the models from Ford Europe sold throughout the 1970s. Ford also used the Mazda models to establish its own retail presence in Japan – the Autorama dealers sold these cars, plus the occasional Ford US and Ford Europe models. The badge-engineered models came to an end in the early 21st century, as Ford replaced the Laser with its own Focus, and Telstar with its own Mondeo.
The reverse also happened, with Mazda selling badge-engineered Fords in Europe, such as the Mazda 121 based on the Ford Fiesta. Ford and Mazda have moved onto collaboration in a more fundamental sense, by way of platform sharing.