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End of the Rotary Engine

 Poor sales and the high costs of meeting modern emissions standards have put the final nail in the coffin of the Mazda Motor Corp. rotary engine. After a successful 45-year production run,  Mazda announced that the final version of the rotary-powered Mazda RX-8 will go on sale next November and the factory will end production shortly afterward in June of 2012.

The announcement is sad news for fans of the rotary engine that powered thousands of cars and trucks including the first and only Japanese car to win the prestigious 24-hour Le Mans endurance race in France. Mazda introduced its first rotary engine car in 1967 and has been the only automaker in the world to produce rotary engine vehicles. Fans of the rotary point to it's simplicity but detractors say the time has come and gone for the unique engine that has always been a bit more expensive to manufacture than conventional gasoline engines and uses more fuel as well.

Mazda issued a statement saying that research and development on the rotary engine will continue, but general production no longer makes sense when compared to the costs of meeting safety and emissions standards for new vehicles. The sporty RX-8 is the only model in Mazda's present lineup with a rotary engine and the decision to halt production shows how current consumer tastes have changed over the years from once preferring sports cars to now desiring greener vehicles. As a result, Mazda was only able to sell just under 3,000 of the rotary-powered RX-8 cars in the last year.

Although Mazda says it will remain committed to the ongoing development of the rotary, the Japanese automaker does not have a ready line of green vehicles yet. Lacking the electric technologies that its larger Japanese rivals like Toyota, Honda and Nissan have displayed, Mazda is struggling in the current green marketplace. Although Mazda has had a long relationship with domestic partner Ford Motor Co., Ford began reducing its stake in Mazda back in 2008, and currently owns less than 4% of the Japanese firm.
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