The Mazda Motor Corporation is a multinational car manufacturer, producing most of its cars in Japan. Not bad for a company whose first motorised product was a rickshaw! Thanks to strong financing (its major investors are Japanese banks), superb marketing and serious quality control it is now the 15th biggest carmaker in the world.
One particular product which has greatly assisted the growth of the company, with over 1 million sales to date, is the Mazda MX-5.
This is quite simply the fastest selling sports car of all time. And yet there is very little new about it; it is a simple two seater roadster of lightweight construction, which was designed along traditional lines with rearwheel drive and a soft top; it is not at all dissimilar to a Lotus Elan of the 1960s even down to pop up headlights. It was designed by a consortium of American, British and Japanese designers and together they created what is probably the ideal formula for a sports car; it is cheap, fun to drive, and very, very reliable.
It was never intended to be a supercar; more an updated version of the Austin Healey Sprite or the MGB. It wassn't particularly fast either; a top speed of 115 mph and nought to 60 in 8.6 seconds was more respectable than blistering; but it was fun to drive and thanks to perfect weight balance achieved by pushing the engine back slightly, and the double wishbone suspension, the roadholding and steering were excellent making it a reasonably safe car to drive as well. This agility has made it a popular on the race track as well as the open road.
The original car had a 1.6 litre straight four cylinder engine producing 114 brake horsepower; upholstery was in leather and like most Japanese cars there was a decent quality stereo system fitted but luxury wise that was about it; but then the type of driver that it was aimed at didn't particularly want a luxurious car anyway. It has become a cult car in it's own right with enthusiast and owners clubs set up all over the world, and it is still just as popular today as it was when it was first brought out, having passed the 1 million sales mark several years ago.
It's success may have something to do with the fact that, at the time of it's launch in 1989, it's only real competitor was the Alfa Romeo Spider; had it been launched a decade earlier it would have faced competition from other similar cars such as the Triumph TR7, Triumph Spitfire, and the MGB so perhaps it may not have been such a runaway seller initially but the sheer reliability and value for money that the MX-5 offered would have made it a worthy challenger. It is fair to say right now that there is no other lightweight sports car on the market which could touch it for popularity.
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