HIROSHIMA, Japan — Mazda Motor Corp., one of Japan's smallest, scrappiest and sportiest automakers, didn't survive 100 years by chance — though it had its share of good luck at times.
Mazda has lasted so long largely because it consistently turned to brainpower and innovation to compensate for its small, competitive size and scant resources. It was never afraid to reinvent itself or think outside the box. That, in fact, has been Mazda's recipe for survival in a world of giant rivals.
But now that the Japanese carmaker is heading into its second century, Mazda will have to channel that corporate ethos more than ever. Buffered by spiraling costs for a new generation of self-driving, electrified and connected cars, Mazda is determined to again defy the odds by pioneering new technologies as it tries to carve out its own niche on the global playing field.
And that is something that CEO Akira Marumoto concedes even Mazda can't do alone in an age of industry tumult.
New technologies mean leveraging proven approaches with new partners. So as Mazda marks its centennial, it will work to keep employees focused on the future as well as the past — beginning by making its employees aware of the significance of the moment.
"Jan. 30 is the anniversary date, and we will hold some employee events," Marumoto told Automotive News at Mazda's global headquarters here in western Japan. "What we are doing is educating our employees on Mazda's history. We want them to learn about our relationship with stakeholders in the past, so they can think about what kind of relationships we should have in the next 100 years."
"My expectation is that will lead to an understanding of Mazda's uniqueness while co-creating with others."
With global sales of just under 1.6 million vehicles a year, Mazda is realistic about its limitations, Marumoto said. But to maintain its identity and independence, it needs a little help from friends.
"We can't do everything by ourselves," the Mazda boss said. "We have to have strong collaboration with our partners and have strong trust. That is what Mazda must be doing."