May 30, 2007 Today marks the 40th anniversary of Mazda's first Wankel rotary engine powered vehicle. On May 30, 1967, Mazda commenced sales of the world's first dual-rotor RE car, the Cosmo Sport and has since produced almost two million rotary engined vehicles. The first wankel-engined auto was an NSU (now Audi) Wankel Spider in 1964, and though Mercedes, Rolls Royce, Norton, Suzuki, General Motors, Citroen, John Deere and Arctic Cat all experimented with some even producing small runs of wankel engined machinery, the only manufacturer to produce the engine designed by German engineer Felix Wankel in quantities remains as Mazda.
Near the end of the 1950s, many automakers around the world dedicated considerable Research & Development resources for the development of the rotary engine (RE), but most discontinued their efforts because they were unable to surmount the formidable technical challenges inherent to the technology. Mazda alone persevered, eventually overcoming these obstacles and successfully achieved RE mass production. On May 30, 1967, Mazda commenced sales of the world's first dual-rotor RE car, the Cosmo Sport. Following this, Mazda introduced other RE vehicles to the market, including the Familia Rotary Coupe, Savanna, RX-7 and Eunos Cosmo. With a number of improvements in fuel economy and environmental performance over the years, sales of Mazda vehicles equipped with RE engines are continuing.
Mazda began its involvement in motor sports in 1968, following the release of the Cosmo Sport, when RE cars started participating in car races. In 1991, the Mazda 787B made rotary engine history when it became the only Japanese car ever to claim victory at the Le Mans 24 hour endurance race. Additionally, with over 100 wins in both the touring car series in Japan and in the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) series in the United States, RE-equipped racecars have enjoyed a glittering record of success.
The RX-8 sports car was launched in April 2003. It is powered by the new generation, naturally-aspirated RENESIS rotary engine, which is more compact, powerful and environmentally friendly than its predecessors. Britain's specialist technology magazine, Engine Technology International, awarded the RENESIS its coveted International Engine of the Year award in 2003 as well as successive awards for its engine class in 2003 and 2004, to show its high regard for this engine.
Currently, Mazda is advancing with its development of the hydrogen RE, which emits no carbon dioxide (CO2), one of the gases responsible for global warming. Development of the hydrogen RE started in 1991 and has thus far resulted in the RX-8 Hydrogen RE, which in February 2006 became the world's first hydrogen RE vehicle to be commercially leased. Currently, seven hydrogen RE vehicles are on the road in Japan under commercial lease.
"The rotary engine symbolizes Mazda”, said Mazda President and CEO, Hisakazu Imaki. “As Mazda's next generation eco-engine, the hydrogen rotary engine holds great promise and, in fact, is already running on public roads. Mazda will aspire to add new value to our rotary technologies by investing further in hydrogen rotary engine Research & Development."