Mazda is a worldwide automobile manufacturing corporation from Japan and has been manufacturing automobiles and related products for 71 years.
The Company started in 1920 asToyo Cork Kogyo as a producer of hand and machine tools, which were the primary products for 10 years. In 1931 the name was changed to just Toyo Kogyo and produced its first vehicle, the Mazdago; it was a 3-wheeled motorcycle-like-truck with a hauling bed placed between the rear wheels for carrying cargo. The name "Mazda" came in 1960 as well as the first actual "car", the R360, followed by the Mazda Carol in 1962.
Late in the 1960's, Mazda distinguished itself from the rest of the auto world by seriously developing engines based on the Wankel Rotary Engine, and Dr. Wankel was employed by Mazda for many years while the first rotor driven mass-produced vehicle, the Mazda Cosmo Sports 110S, was in production.
The rotary engine is easily Mazda's most important product; even though, during the development and sale of rotary engine vehicles, Mazda was losing money over the deal both due to development costs and low sales. So why did they keep pushing a losing proposition? Because at the time (in the late 1960's and early 1970's), the Japanese government was controlling some industries and forcing various car companies to merge to consolidate designs in order to become more competitive. The Mazda execs didn't want to be sucked into a huge conglomerate and decided the only way they could be given autonomy would be to have a technology that no one else had -- they chose the Wankel engine a developed it mercilessly. Their gamble worked and Mazda was allowed to stay as a separate company.
Despite the importance of the Rotary engine, there have been only
3 few vehicles in the Mazda line to use it: the Cosmo Sports 110S, the RX-7 and the new RX-8 (Transitional Man also informs me there was a Low Cost RX-3, and I also remember something about a Rotary Pickup). Instead, their cash crops have been either affordable vehicles like the Protege/323 or famous sports cars like the Miata/MX-5/Eunos Roadster.
Ford Motor Company acquired a 25% controlling stake in Mazda in 1992 which has also caused many vehicles to cross lines: the Mazda B2000 is the Ford Ranger, the Mazda Tribute is the Ford Escape and for a while the Mazda Navajo was the Ford Explorer.
The name itself comes from Ahura Mazda, the highest Zoroastrian God, and God of reason who granted wisdom to mankind, nature and the other gods. It also closely resembles the sound of the company founder's name, Jujiro Matsuda.