I visited the Mazda Motor Corporation yesterday as its world headquarters are in Hiroshima. Hiroshima is most well known for the atomic bomb blast. Without that, it would be known for being the home of Mazda. Car manufacturing is big in Japan with the world’s largest producer of cars, Toyota, being based in Nagoya and four of the top 10 largest automobile manufacturers in the world being located in Japan. Mazda is number 15 in the world. They had a long relationship with Ford, but recently Ford has divested itself from Mazda and only owns 3%.
Hiroshima is almost a company town, with the Mazda complex taking up 7 kilometers of the city. We toured “Mazda-landia” and it is huge. They have the world’s longest privately owned bridge, two fire stations, a hospital, a coal burning power plant and even their own port! They have a large test track in another part of the city. Mazda also owns the professional baseball team, the Hiroshima Carp and professional soccer team. I can imagine how big the larger car companies must be! I am embarrassed to have grown up in Michigan and never visited Ford or GM.
The most interesting part of the tour was watching the 1000 meter long assembly line. I could have stayed for a couple of hours. There were not too many assembly workers as much of it is controlled by robots and machines. The guys on the floor were all young and nimble, crawling in and out of cars. They assemble a car in 15 hours and they produce about 400 cars per day. Watching the frames getting parts stuck on with rivets and the incredible amount of engineering and logistics that goes into assembling an entire car in a day is amazing! We were not allowed to film or take pictures on that part of the tour.
I am not into cars, as I only see cars as a way to get me from point A to point B. I would never buy a new car, preferring to spend my money on other things. In fact I don’t even own a car and we just occasionally rent a car when we need it. I understand guys who are passionate about cars, but it is just not for me. The tour was interesting however and I learned a lot.
Mazda’s speciality is the rotary motor, which is different from the common piston-driven engine. It has more power and a smoother ride, but is not very fuel efficient. This almost bankrupted the company in the 1970s, but they survived and have done well with the “roadster” or “miata” rotary engine car. They switched to the more fuel efficient piston engine for most of their models. The company survived the atomic bomb and were producing a 3-wheeled mini-truck only 4 months after the devastation. They were also the only Japanese car company to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans, accomplishing the feat in 1991.