The Toyo Kogyo Co. of Hiroshima, Japan, the predecessor of Mazda Motor Corporation, built its first vehicle, the Mazda-Go three-wheeled truck, in 1931. All of the company's trucks were given the Mazda name, partly in reference to Ahura-Mazda, the Zoroastrian god of light, and partly because it sounded like the name of company founder, Jujiro Matsuda. The first Mazda passenger car, the R360 coupe, was released in 1960. In 1961, Mazda started technical cooperation with NSU of Germany for rights to develop and use the powerful, lightweight rotary combustion engine originally designed by Dr. Felix Wankel. Mazda started selling rotary-engined cars in Japan in 1967, the same year it began exporting cars to Europe. Mazda entered the U.S. market in 1970 with the rotary-powered RX-2, and introduced the slightly larger RX-3 in 1971. Their ability to leave behind cars powered by larger conventional engines made a big impression. In 1978, Mazda introduced the RX-7 sports car, powered by a twin-rotor Wankel engine, and its combination of power and handling made it an instant hit. The Mazda 787B prototype, powered by a four-rotor, 700 horsepower engine, won at Le Mans in 1991. Current models include an updated version of MX-5/Miata sports car, the Axela/Mazda 3 and Atenza/Mazda 6, and the latest Mazda rotary-powered sports car, the RX-8.

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