Toyo Cork Kogyo, which would eventually become Mazda, was founded by Jujiro Matsuda in Hiroshima, Japan on this day in 1920. The company, which produced cork, was saved from bankruptcy by Hiroshima Savings Bank in the late 1920s. The near death experience allowed the board of the company to reconsider their product offerings. They reorganized in 1931 as Toyo Kogyo Co and introduced the three-wheeled Mazda-Go auto-rickshaw, beginning the company’s endeavor into automobiles.
The company’s first real car, the Mazda R360 was introduced in 1960, about the time the company formed a partnership with German company NSU to develop the Wankel rotary engine. This joint venture would lead to the Mazda Cosmo Sport in 1967, which featured the revolutionary rotary engine. Mazda expanded to Canada and the US in 1968 and 1970 respectively. It wasn’t until 1984 the company officially adopted Mazda as its name. Some 22 years after that, nearly 5,000 brand new Mazdas met the crusher after a massive shipping accident.