Mazda is headquartered in Hiroshima, Japan and is one of the most well-known of the Japanese automakers, having been founded in 1920 as a manufacturing concern and in 1931 as an automaker. Its name comes from Ahura Mazda, a god of wisdom, intelligence and harmony from early Persia and is a derivative of the name of the company's founder, Jujiro Matsuda.

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The company first entered the Canadian market in 1959 and the United States in 1970. In the 1970s, Mazda was most well-known for its pioneering Wankel Rotary Engine designs and marketing, with its first entry into the American market being the Mazda Rotary Pickup. While rotary engines gained the company marketing fame, its true sales were mostly with conventional engines, which had better fuel-efficiency, and its four-cylinder engine technology became the company's saving grace later on. In 1979, Mazda partnered with Ford – a partnership which lasted until 2010 and resulted in the award-winning EcoBoost and SKYACTIV high-compression, high-efficiency engine lines the companies produce today.

Consumers in the United States know Mazda primarily for its popular MX-5 Miata roadster, the world's best-selling roadster of all time. The little two-seater is just one of several models in the automaker's lineup, however, which includes the award-winning Mazda6 mid-size sedan, the best- selling CX-series of crossovers, and its popular Mazda3 sedan and hatchback. In addition, the company has won several awards globally for its innovative SKYACTIV technologies, which are now becoming the whole-car design language of its vehicles, with their increased fuel economy, safety, and handling efficiencies.

In motorsport, Mazda is best known for its sponsorship of the Laguna Seca racing course in California, which it also uses for its automotive testing, and several Mazda race series that feature various Mazda models and racers. Mazda is also the only Japanese auto manufacturer to have won the 24 Hours of Le Mans overall in 1991. The Mazda Miata is the most-commonly-raced amateur grassroots vehicle in history.