The Story of How Mazda Got Its Name

The Story of How Mazda Got Its Name
The Story of How Mazda Got Its Name

The Mazda name is well known around the world, but you may not know the true meaning of the word “Mazda”. The name Mazda is synonymous with the award-winning car brand that was recognized as the “Best Car Brand” for four years in a row. However, this intriguing word has a long and fascinating history, and the name behind this auto brand has several possible origins. Below, we take a look at the history behind the Mazda name we’ve come to know and love.

The Toyo Kogyo Company

In 1920, Toyo Cork Kogyo Ltd. was founded. At the time, the company was focusing heavily on the production of compressed cork boards. In 1925, a fire destroyed a whopping 70% of the factory’s equipment. During the process of rebuilding the business, then-president Jujiro Matsuda shifted the company’s focus to machining. In 1927, Matsuda changed the name of the business to Toyo Kogyo Co., Ltd., thus eliminating its association with cork products. The company then began to produce machine tools and rock tools primarily.

The First Mazda Vehicles

The first time the word “Mazda” was used in reference to a vehicle was in 1931 when Toyo Kogyo Co., Ltd. produced the prototype Mazda-Go. This autorickshaw had three wheels and looked like a motorcycle with a cargo carrier on the back. This wasn’t the first time Toyo Kogyo Co., Ltd. had ventured into such territory. The company built a prototype 250 cc two-stroke motorcycle engine in November 1929. In October 1930, Toyo Kogyo Co., Ltd. won Hiroshima’s Shokon-sai race with company-built motorcycles.

In July 1931, Toyo Kogyo Co., Ltd. and Mitsubishi entered into an exclusive agency agreement regarding three-wheel trucks, including the Mazda-Go and other similar vehicles. Toyo Kogyo Co., Ltd. began exporting these three-wheel trucks in 1932. In 1934, the company registered the Mazda name as a trademark and used it for all its vehicles. After this, the original prototype autorickshaw gave way to an enduring moniker that would go on to define the automaker’s entire brand.

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World War II forced Toyo Kogyo Co., Ltd. to shift its focus away from its burgeoning auto business to wartime efforts. During the war, the Japanese army commanded Toyo Kogyo Co., Ltd. to produce weapons and machines for the Japanese army and navy under the Military Industry and Mobilization Act.

The Founder of Toyo Kogyo

Though it’s clear that the Mazda-Go name was the precursor to all the vehicle names from Toyo Kogyo Co., Ltd., many questions remain regarding where the word came from. One likely source is the name of the company’s president at the time — Matsuda. In Japanese, the word Mazda is pronounced very much like Matsuda. In fact, you may get some puzzled looks if you travel to Japan and pronounce Mazda phonetically like we do in the United States.

Jujiro Matsuda was one of the founders of what is now known as the Mazda Motor Corporation. He was the company’s second president and played an integral role in shaping it during its early years. It was his passion and vision that helped shift the company to machine manufacturing early on. Matsuda strongly believed that the latest machinery was key to producing products that would delight customers.

The Deity Ahura Mazda

Another likely inspiration for the name Mazda comes from the Zoroastrian deity Ahura Mazda. According to Zarathustra, the spiritual founder of Zoroastrianism, Ahura Mazda created all cosmic order and the universe itself. The deity was considered the one true god of Zoroastrianism before Angra Mainyu was elevated in status to create a more dualistic religion. However, Ahura Mazda continued to have positive associations as a god of harmony and knowledge.

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In reference to this deity, the word Mazda means light or wisdom. This is an appropriate association for a company that focuses on innovation and the illumination of new products and production methods.

When the Mazda Motor Corporation Took Its Name

Though all vehicles that joined the collection from Toyo Kogyo Co., Ltd. took on the Mazda name, it wasn’t until May 1984 that the company officially changed its title to the Mazda Motor Corporation. That same year, Mazda added the first all-wheel-drive model to its E-series lineup and built a passenger vehicle plant in Flat Rock, Michigan, for US Mazda production.

By this point, Mazda was already a well-known name around the world, with customers in Europe, the United States, and Canada. Consumers may not have even noticed the change in the company’s name because Mazda was already so well recognized as a brand.

The Mazda Logo and Brand

The Mazda logo echoes some of the ideology behind the origins of the Mazda name. The first time the word Mazda was used in association with a logo was in 1934, when it became a registered trademark. The first logo simply read “Mazda” in an italicized typeface with distinctive Japanese elements.

In 1936, the logo evolved to a more stylistic design, featuring three lines, each with two subtle points in the center to resemble the letter “M.” The three layers stand for Mazda Motor Manufacturer. The distinctive flow of the logo invokes thoughts of aviation, establishing the company as an innovative leader.

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Between 1951 and 1997, the company cycled through several other logo designs. In 1951, Mazda used a badge featuring three abstract geometric shapes. In 1954, it switched back to relying on typography reading “Mazda.” The circular emblem appeared in 1991 and had a diamond in the center to symbolize light, which is a key element of the Ahura Mazda deity. In 1997, the central shape changed to a stylistic V that gave the impression of wings. This represents vitality, innovation, and forward-thinking.

Today, the Mazda logo is much the same, with an emblem that looks ready to take flight and search for new adventures. The name that accompanies vehicles from automated rickshaws to sleek sports cars will likely carry connotations of innovative auto-making into the future. However, looking back in time gives you a fascinating glimpse of where it all started. Contact our team at Bountiful Mazda to learn more about the Mazda vehicles of today.

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