Comeback Kids

Mazda roars ahead

Few companies have survived setbacks as stunning as the one that befell Japan's Toyo Kogyo Co. Ltd., the maker of Mazda cars and trucks, in the mid-1970s. At the time, nearly half of Mazda's vehicles used the revolutionary Wankel engine, in which a rotor instead of pistons produces the power. When the world oil crisis began in 1973, the gas-guzzling Wankels became a sales disaster because they delivered a maximum of only about 15 miles to the gallon. The company seemed headed for the corporate scrap heap. Recalls one executive: "Every...

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