Automotive AZ-1

Published on April 15th, 2024 | by Sounder Rajen


Do You Know The History Behind This Japan Exclusive AZ-1 Collaboration Car?

The AZ-1 is a rare collaboration between Mazda and Suzuki way back in the 1980s

In the late 1980s, the automotive world witnessed the emergence of a peculiar creation known as the AZ-1, touted as a “Midship DOHC Turbo Exciting Micro Coupe.” Exclusive to the Japanese market, this compact marvel was the result of an unusual collaboration between Mazda and Suzuki, initially sold under Mazda’s Autozam brand, it was later being rebadged as the Suzuki Cara.


What many may not realise is that the genesis of the AZ-1 can be traced back to Suzuki’s pioneering efforts. In the mid-1980s, amid a fervent atmosphere of innovation and competition among Japanese automakers, Suzuki, renowned for its expertise in small cars, particularly Kei cars, sought to venture into the realm of sports cars. 

Moreover, Kei cars, constrained by strict size and displacement regulations, offered affordability and efficiency but lacked the performance of their European counterparts. Suzuki’s exploration of the sports car domain began with models like the rear-engined SC100 “Whizzkid” in 1978, followed by the mid-engine RS/1 concept in 1985 and the RS/3 in 1987. 


However, Suzuki ultimately shelved its mid-engine aspirations in favour of the front-engine Suzuki Cappuccino. Seizing the opportunity, Mazda, with ambitions of crafting its own Kei sports car, assumed control of the project. Well, this would have been tragic news in Europe indeed if it were actually sold there.

The collaboration between Mazda and Suzuki extended beyond the AZ-1, encompassing other Kei vehicles, which Mazda marketed under its Autozam brand. This strategic alliance aimed to diversify Mazda’s product lineup and tap into the booming Japanese economy, with prospects of eventually expanding Mazda’s independent vehicle production.

On top of that, Autozam not only offered a range of economy-oriented Mazda and Suzuki models but also served as the distributor for Lancia vehicles in Japan. However, it was the AZ-1 that epitomised the pinnacle of niche vehicle offerings under the Autozam banner. 

Little did Mazda foresee that this foray into specialised vehicles would represent the zenith of its product diversity. These days the brand is more known for its sensible family cars and even now, it focuses heavily on electric vehicles (EVs) but cars like the RX-7 and this AZ-1 will forever be what the brand is ultimately remembered for.


Thus, the AZ-1 stands as a testament to the dynamic collaboration between Mazda and Suzuki, marking a fascinating chapter in automotive history where innovation, partnership, and niche market exploration converged to produce a truly unique driving experience.

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