It’s a little-known fact that what is now Mazda Corporation began business 100 years ago, in 1920, as a company called Toyo Cork Kogyo. It has the distinction of being the only world automaker that owes its existence to cork.
Mazda’s home town of Hiroshima played a key role in the founding of the company. With cork trees abundant in the region around the city and the local shipbuilding industry in full swing, sourcing cork from those trees to use in wooden ships was a natural business for the area.
After a successful career in engineering in Osaka, where he started as an apprentice blacksmith before starting his own metal casting company, Mazda’s founder, Jujiro Matsuda returned to his native city of Hiroshima and joined Toyo Cork Kogyo as a board member in 1921.
Although his expertise was in machinery and engineering, Matsuda quickly proved his worth with several innovations including the production of pressed cork boards and, despite some initial setbacks, he eventually earned the post of president.
After renaming the company Toyo Kogyo in 1927, he led the business into machinery manufacturing, which ultimately evolved into the production of three-wheeled trucks in 1931, creating the basis of the modern Mazda Corporation.
To honour the role of cork in its beginnings, on the centennial of the company’s founding, Mazda is using cork as a distinctive trim material in the cabin of the soon-to-be-released MX-30 electric utility vehicle. Cork is employed to line the floating centre console and inner door handle trim of what will be the brand’s first battery-electric production model.
It is a fitting tribute to a material that set-in motion the enterprise that became Mazda Corporation.