How Japanese multinational automaker Mazda has climbed up the ranks

There is much to this marque that is making it a force to be reckoned with in the automotive industry

By George Kuruvilla

Published: Fri 21 Jan 2022, 12:05 AM

Back in the day, I used to see the Mazda vehicles parked outside our apartment. And I was quite aware, even as a child, that they were “just” affordable commuter vehicles. But there was something about them that pulled my strings, something that made these seemingly everyday vehicles project an image of a larger, more sophisticated brand. Was it the naming system that gave us cars like the 323, 626 and 929, which drew comparisons to the BMW’s own nomenclature or was it the conservative, but idiosyncratic styling? Who knows!

It was only a decade later that I got a real taste of the Japanese brand’s offerings. First with the Mazda6 that I had rented for about nine months. Not knowing what to expect, I came out of the rental experience with a smile on my face. The car’s lines — both external and internal — were clean and congruous. The build quality was at par with benchmarks like Honda and Toyota. And the drive — possibly the best part — was rewarding. The throttle response good and the neutral, predictable handling often made me forget that I was driving a 5-seater family sedan and not a sports coupe. Similar verdicts were established after driving the purposeful CX-5 and very accommodating CX-9 as well.

The proof is in the pudding. You see Mazda is less about the show, i.e. advertising and more about the go, i.e. their products. And there is much to this marque that is making it a force to be reckoned with in the automotive industry.

What sets them apart?

Hiroshima, the birthplace of Mazda, has thrived as an industrial hub in Western Japan, producing not just crucial raw materials like steel, but finished products like ships and cars too. After the unfortunate atomic bombing in the last days of World War II, Hiroshima rose from the ashes and Mazda almost immediately returned to building its popular 3-wheeler trucks. These may seem like amusing modes of transport for us the modern urban dweller, but these were some of the automobiles that served the region and its people in great capacity, helping Hiroshima and Japan regain its prosperity.

They pride themselves in researching, creating, and developing technologies that few automakers dare to. The Wankel rotary engine, a piston-less engine configuration, that most manufacturers have given up on is central to the Mazda resume. These have been successfully employed on some of their most prolific sports cars of our era, namely the RX-7 and RX-8. More recently, they have invested in their umbrella technology called SKYACTIV which combines, high-compression direct injection engines, lightweight chassis, which has been lauded by the auto community.

Lastly, Mazda has done what many manufacturers deem impossible or fail to deliver, which is making affordable cars desirable too. We believe this may have something to do with its intrinsic culture which makes the company seem honest and even endearing, which again filters down to their products as well. And this is evident from the three lines jotted under their company vision. The first states, “Brighten people’s lives through car ownership” that relates to human experience. The second, “Offer cars that are sustainable with the earth and society to more people” that pertains to looking at the world as the extended self or family. And the third, “Embrace challenges and seek to master the Doh (“Way” or “Path”) of creativity” that incorporates a dimension of spirituality into the business. All three aspects have helped them become the successful car company they are today.

So, you see, Mazda has a lot going for it, and if you don’t take our word for it, take it from other industry experts…

Racking up the laurels on awards’ nights

Mazda was ranked No.1 under “Best Car Brands of 2021” by Consumer Reports (CR), which many of you may know is an American (and almost universal) non-profit organisation that invests in independent product testing and maintains a pro-consumer standing in the industry.

CR vehicle reviews, like our very own, are based on a Road-Test Score, Predicted Reliability, Owner Satisfaction, Safety and an Overall Score. So, they are rather comprehensive! And one of the reasons Mazda came out on top was that all seven Mazda models tested earned the “Recommended” badge, pushing the brand from last year’s No.4 spot all the way up to the top for 2021. It also helps that the marque earned itself a spot amongst the top three in the “Most Reliable Car Brands” category of 2021, ahead of the titan Toyota.

There is more good news! The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the authority which sets the gold standard for automotive safety and records road incidents and causes… in the far west, has awarded Mazda the highest award, the 2021 TOP SAFETY PICK+. In fact, each and every Mazda vehicle tested got the stamp, for the second year in a row. In order to qualify for the prestigious award, Mazda vehicles had to earn “good” ratings in each of the institute’s six crashworthiness evaluation, advanced or superior ratings for front crash prevention in both vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian evaluations and “good” or “acceptable” headlight ratings.

And to top it all, the 7th generation and all-new Mazda3 which won the World Car Design Award in 2020. The Mazda CX-30 crossover has also won the 2019 Golden Steering Wheel, the 2020 Red Dot Design Award, earned five stars in the Euro NCAP, and was a finalist for the 2020 World Car of the Year Award. These are just some of the highlights of Mazda’s recent resume of global achievements and there is much more to see from the Japanese brand in the coming years, as it firmly places itself amongst the automotive stars.

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