Chapter4:From prototype to the showroom floor
Captivating design is an essential element of a successful sports car. The design of the MX-5 was initiated at Mazda North America (MANA), a development center located in California. In January 1986, it was decided that the R&D team in Japan would take over, and that summer the design base moved to Hiroshima with an almost-finished clay model.
Even at this stage, there were still doubts that the MX-5 would ever reach production. Some people still questioned the market potential of a lightweight sports car. To test this, a full-scale plastic body prototype was made from one of the design proposals and brought to the US in April 1987. Members of the public with an interest in cars were invited to preview the design. Of the 220 participants, 57 responded that they “would definitely buy it if it hit the market.” With the US being the world’s largest automobile market, this result had a strong influence on the decision makers at Mazda.
Having successfully survived this early crisis, development continued and the design was finalized five months later. Two years after that, in spring 1989, Mazda’s compact roadster went on sale in the US, with sales in Japan commencing in September. Japan had been without an exciting car that could connect directly with the driver’s emotions for a long time, and the MX-5, known in Japan as the Eunos Roadster, surprised many people with its instant success.
The Mazda MX-5 achieved more than a boost to Mazda’s sales figures; it triggered a number of other automakers to produce their own open-top sports cars. As a result, it brought about a 1990s revival of the lightweight sports car that had disappeared at the end of the 1970s. The MX-5 proved that lightweight sports cars can have a universal appeal. This achievement was made possible by the advancement of automotive technologies and the passion of Mazda’s engineers.
The World's luckiest car
The Mazda MX-5 was born in the hearts of automotive engineers and brought to fruition through their aspirations. Beloved by drivers around the world since its debut, it was certified by Guinness World Records as the world’s highest production two-seat open top sports car in May 2000 (with 531,890 units produced between April 1989 and the end of October 1999). MX-5 sales continued to increase around the world, and Guinness updated the record when production passed 800,000 units in January 2007.
Even today, the “Jinba Ittai” spirit lives on in the third generation MX-5. The latest version of Mazda’s iconic roadster was born from the belief that “Only a very few sports cars possess the enduring spirit seen in the MX-5.”
It is this passion that makes Mazda’s MX-5 roadster the luckiest car on Earth.