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The Japanese automobile industry has featured a medley of successful companies throughout its modern history. From Toyota to Honda, the nation has produced vehicles that the entire world has embraced for their durability, price and efficiency. One of the companies that has contributed greatly to this Japanese auto-making tradition is Mazda Motors.
This Japanese based auto manufacturing company, headquartered in Fuchū, Aki District, Hiroshima Prefecture, has developed some of the most iconic car brands in automotive industry. From the Mazda RX-7 to the Miata, consumers across the globe have benefitted and valued the company’s products and accompanying service for decades. The company features a rich history of innovation and technological advancement that has cemented its reputation industry wide.
Mazda was founded in Hiroshima, Japan, in 1920. Initially it faced heavy losses and was saved by a loans from Hiroshima Saving Bank and other business leaders in Hiroshima. In 1927, it was renamed as Toyo Kogyo Co., Ltd. The company has manufactured millions vehicles for worldwide distribution. These vehicles have been manufactured throughout Japan and the world. In 2011, the firm was recognized as one of the world’s largest auto manufacturing companies globally.
It was in 1931 that the firm expanded its activity from a tool producer to vehicles and launched its first model of the Mazda-Go auto rickshaw. During World War II, the Company received a contract to manufacturer weapons for the Japanese army and was lauded for its 30 through 35 Type 99 rifles. The company was named as Mazda in 1984. Some of its most notable models include the Mazda R360, the Miata and the Mazda Carol in 1962.
Around 1960, Mazda was inspired by NSU, and thus initiated a plan to apply the engineering technology into the production of the Wankel rotary engine in an enhanced form that would distinguish it from other Japanese auto manufacturers at the time. Mazda eventually would sign a joint venture with German major auto producer NSU.
These attempts to improve its own performance helped it earn a good reputation in the global marketplace enabling it to grow orders from across the globe. Two of its piston-powered productions and rotary-powered vehicles gained mass popularity in the international market. The rotary models were popular immensely for its enhanced power features and lightweight compared to competing vehicles that relied on heaftier V8 or V6 engines to generate equivalent power. The Mazda R100 and RX series became prime export models.
Mazda developed a production unit in Canada in 1968, given its vehicles had become popular there since 1959. It was 1970, when the company made its foray into American market with success. It also produced a unique Mazda Rotary Pickup specific to the needs of the North American market. Even today, Mazda is the sole manufacturer to develop a Wankel-engine pickup truck, rotary-powered bus or station wagon. In 1970, after nine years of development, Mazda introduced a new model in the United States.
Mazda's Rotary Pickup experienced high demand until the 1973 oil crisis. The crisis made Americans look for fuel efficient vehicles ,which the rotary-powered model was of course not. Therefore, it started losing the market share. The company was facing the same dilemma in Japan as well. The challenges in Japan and the United States resulted in increased inventory and subsequent losses throughout 1975.
This business hardship extorted overwhelming pressure on the company’s leader Toyo Kogyo. The heavy loans the company had incurred nearly resulted in bankruptcy, yet was salvaged by the Sumitomo Bank run by the Sumitomo Keiretsu group, as well as by financing provided by subcontractors and distributors. Despite these financial challenges, Mazda had kept refining manufacturing technology in piston engines, including four-cylinder models. The Mazda little Familia and the somewhat larger Capella series played an important role in Mazda's global sales post during this time period.
Mazda reinforced its endeavors to make the rotary-powered engine a preferred option for the sporting riders instead of mainstream technology. Since its launch of the low weight RX-7 in 1978 and newer RX-8 models, Mazda was consistently focusing on power efficiency. This precise focus yielded the creation of other low weight sports car, such as the piston-engine Mazda Roadster. The main inspiration behind this car was the concept of 'jinba ittai'. This 1989 model was appreciated globally, and the roadster became an icon in field of small sports car by virtue of its innovation.
From 1979 to 2010, Mazda and Ford engaged in a business partnership. The two global automotive firms contributed to the development of each other’s automotive output and growth, including pick-up trucks, cars, trucks and vans. The two companies integrated technology across brands that formulated a unique experience for drivers that was both user-friendly and durable. For example, Mazda's Familia design was applied to Ford’s Laser and Escort models. The Mazda Capella design was used in developing the Ford Telstar sedan and Probe sports cars. By 2002, Ford had accumulated a significant equity position in Mazda.
By 1991, Mazda had played a key role in the development of Ford’s highly-successful Explorer model. Mazda endeavored to create it’s own sports utility vehicle, namely its 2-door Mazda Navajo from the years 1991 to 1994. Unfortunately, Mazda's model failed in the market, while Ford quickly gained best selling sport-utility car in the United States, which continued for coming decades. Mazda employed Ford's Ranger pickup technology and design in its northern United States market B-Series trucking vehicles.
The global recession in 2008 forced Ford to cut its shares in Mazda significantly. This shift precipitate a change in Mazda’s leadership with the emergence of CEO Takashi Yamanouchi over Hisakazu Imaki. Despite the equity dilution in the company, Ford and Mazda remained aligned strategically to share technological information. This enduring partnership coupled with Mazda’s emphasis on investing heavily in its own research and development efforts are certain to preserve the company’s ability to create iconic brands across the automobile landscape.