After WWII the Japanese economy was changing into a higher interdependence between communities. There was an increase in demand for four-wheeled vehicles because Japan needed better transportation to move more goods efficiently in between communities. NSU changed its automobile division because they needed to increase their profits. In the 1960’s NSU fell into financial problems and sold licenses of the rotary engine design to other automotive companies. The company sold 20 licenses ranging from American, European and Asian cars. Companies that bought licenses were GM, Ford Motors, Suzuki, Rolls Royce, Yamaha, Daimler-Benz (which later became Daimler-Chrysler which owns Mercedes-Benz, Dodge and Plymouth), Porsche, AMC, Alfa Romero, Nissan, Toyota, Citroen, John Deere (Lawn Mower Company) and Volks Wagon (later bought out NSU).
Despite all of these car companies interest in the rotary engine none have successfully mass-produced a rotary-powered vehicle. These companies lost millions of dollars on research; development and prototypes that never made it passed the drawing board. When the OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Countries) oil crisis hit in 1973 everything went down hill for the rotary engine. The rotary wasn’t known for its fuel efficiency since it is a known gas-guzzler. One day the engine is dubbed, “ the engine of the future”, by auto magazines around the globe and in an instant it was just a fuel-consuming piece of junk that almost brought down the worlds automotive industries to their knees. One company took the risk and that company is known as Toyo Kogyo Company located in Japan, which bout four licenses from NSU before it was taken over by Volks-Wagon.
Toyo Kogyo Company
Toyo Kogyo started its manufacturing company in 1960 with one goal in mind, which was to take over the United States automotive market. The companies name meant, “Orient Industry”, in the Japanese Language. Toyo Kogyo was a manufacturer of 3-wheeled vehicles, which were kind of like mix between a truck and a motorcycle. There were two other vehicles manufactures in the north; Toyota and Nissan, which started producing vehicles on a much larger scale not seen before in the Japanese Market. Due to the big impact of these two companies alone the Japanese government wanted to limit the car companies to no more than three and Toyo Kogyo wanted to be one of those three.
The president of Toyo Kogyo at the time was Mr. Tsuneji Matsuda who wanted more than anything to be one of those three companies, because the company was almost going out of business. He wanted to save his company more than anything so he assigned Mr. Kenichi Yamamoto as the head of developments, whose job was to build a four-wheeled vehicle besides their three-wheeled “trucks/motorcycles”. It resulted in the R360 coupe, which sold a few modest thousands units, but the company needed something more to get them recognized, and also to save the company of course from being bought out.
Toyo Becomes Mazda
Mr. Matsuda heard of the rotary engine, which was conceived by Dr. Felix Wankel, and manufactured by NSU. He believed he found what would save his company. The things that attracted him was that the engine was much smaller, had less moving parts, and was more durable. He caught a flight as soon as possible to Germany to meet with NSU where he then bought four licenses to use a rotary engine design that’s despite the fact that he knew it didn’t work 100%. Once again Matsuda appointed Yamamoto who agreed very willfully, but little did he know that this would be the hardest challenge in his life. After five long frustrating years they had a fully working rotary engine which was quickly put into production in the 110s Cosmo Sport (1964-1972), this model was never sold in the United States, but it helped maintain the company from going under. Toyo Kogyo changed its name to Mazda, which sounds similar to the companies founder Juriro Matsuda, but its just coincidental. Under this new name, which was more Americanized to suit American customers was the name of a light bulb. Mazda was the name used by a company known as Westinghouse, which manufactured light bulbs for automobiles. Mazda means “god of light” so that would figure why the company choose this name.
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