Cars: Mazda Quits Making Rotary Engine

“Mazda to stop making rotary-engine vehicles,” read the Associated Press headline. After 45 years of making the engine that powered the first and only Japanese car to win the 24-hour Le Mans endurance race, Mazda Motor Corporation, the only automaker in the world to manufacture rotary engine vehicles, recently announced that production of the rotary engine will end in June 2012. Developed by Felix Wankel in 1960 and first used by Mazda in 1967, the rotary engine costs more money and uses more fuel compared to the piston engine, but it’s lighter and quieter and uses fewer moving parts. Amid environmentalist-backed government emissions regulations and government favortism toward electric and hybrid cars, Mazda admitted in its statement that emissions dictates are a partial cause for the decision and said sales had declined. The company, which pledged to continue researching rotary engine possibilities, puts the latest edition of the RX-8 (the only Mazda model with a rotary engine) on sale Nov. 24 with a sales target of 1,000 vehicles. A small percentage of the Hiroshima, Japan-based Mazda is owned by Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford Motor Company, the only private automotive manufacturer in the United States.