Have a gander at the various lists ranking major global automakers (in terms of annual production or overall revenue) for the past few years, and Mazda is nowhere to be seen. Which is a bit of a shame.
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Now, half a decade after concluding a relationship with Ford that started as a financial lifeline and finished with the Mazda brand firmly taking a back seat, the once-ailing automaker is finally fighting fit again.
For its fiscal year ending in March 2014, it posted the highest operating profit in its 94-year history, representing a staggering year-on-year increase of 238 percent.
And with the next batch of financial figures just around the corner, that trend is expected to continue.
But perhaps most intriguingly of all is the fact that Mazda has done all of this without blindly following convention. Take the new MX-5 (aka Miata) as an example: highly unusually, itâ€
Under its SkyActiv banner â€“ technology introduced back in 2011 â€“ the Japanese automaker churns out high-compression petrol engines and places a keen focus on an overall reduction in vehicle weight. And you may notice that Mazda doesnâ€
Even the stop-start system fitted to many of its models is out of the ordinary. Instead of relying on a starter motor to kick the engine back to life, Mazda’s â€œi-stopâ€ function employs nothing more complicated than regular combustion: fuel is directly injected into a cylinder and ignited to generate downward piston force. Simple and efficient.
Some models also feature a nifty Mazda-specific brake energy regeneration system, which captures kinetic energy that would otherwise have been lost, stores it in a low-resistance capacitor, and later unleashes it to power the climate control, audio system, or indeed any electrical ancillary. The result, of course, is more fuel savings.
Of course, Mazda has always had a knack for doing things its own way â€“ and rather effectively, too. The oddball Wankel rotary engine, for instance, quickly became a signature for the brand all those years ago, helping to set it apart from its many competitors, both inside Japanâ€
And, even though Mazda has likely built its final rotary engine, this nonconformist spirit has been transferred to the brandâ€
When Mazda lost Fordâ€
Instead, the Japanese automaker has transformed itself from distinct also-ran to a purveyor of high-quality, smartly engineered automobiles â€“ and arguably even a class-leader or two. All by simply following its own path.