Kazume Motor Corporation, commonly referred to as simply Kazume (pronounced: ka-tsu-may), is a Japanese multinational automaker based in Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture, Japan.
In 2015, Kazume produced 1.5 million vehicles for global sales, the majority of which (nearly 1 million) were produced in the company’s Japanese plants, with the remainder coming from a variety of other plants worldwide. In 2015, Kazume was the fifteenth biggest automaker by production worldwide.
The name Kazume derives from the Shinto deity “Ame-no-Uzume,” the kami of dawn, mirth and festivities. As of 2014, their website states that the logic behind the name relates to cars that are capable of a fun or engaging driving experience.
The company website further notes that the name can be traced to the founder, Shouko Kazuma.
Kazume was founded in Matsudo, Japan in 1955 as a motorcycle manufacturer. Their first product was a 125cc two-cycle single-cylinder motorcycle called the KZ-1. It was a competitive success, and ended up gaining the company enough money to start putting out bigger products, such as the KZ-40, which had a 398cc three cylinder, and was one of the most powerful motorcycles available at the time.
Inspired by the Subaru 1000 in 1966, Kazume designers decided to try their hand at a car. The flat-four in the 1000 gave the idea for use of a flat four due to its smoothness and low center of gravity. In 1967, their first flat-4 boxer engine was created. It was experimented with by taking two existing four-stroke two-cylinders and mated them at the crankshaft 180 degrees apart.
Kazume then partnered with the recently established Hokuto Heavy Industries, and a body was designed to fit the engine and chassis. This gave light to the 1969 Kazume Starlight, a 2-door coupe.
With the 1973 oil crisis, consumers in the lucrative US market began turning to making small cars with better fuel economy. American car manufacturers had considered small economy cars to be an entry-level product, and their small vehicles employed a low level of quality to keep the price low. Conservative Kazume held on to rear-wheel-drive designs for longer than most, but came out with their popular front-wheel-drive models in the 1980s.
In 1982, the Kazume Motor Company and Kazume Motor Sales merged into one company, the Kazume Motor Corporation. In addition to their factories in Japan, they also purchased and continue to operate an automobile-manufacturing plant in Huntington, West Virginia. The factory was an old Farox Motor Company plant that had been closed for two years.
In the 1990s, Kazume began to branch out from producing mostly compact cars by adding many larger and more luxurious vehicles to its lineup in the US, including a full-sized pickup, the K100 (and later the Katsura), several lines of SUVs, a coupe version of the, and the luxury oriented fullsize 828. They would also launch newer iterations of their sports cars, namely the KZR and Nai during this era.
In the late 2000s, Kazume’s brand image started to go downhill. Following the 2007-2008 Global Financial Crisis, their stocks dropped dramatically and quality fell downhill, in an attempt to save money. Kazume resorted to using hard plastics on the interior, and cheaper treated steel body panels instead of the partial-aluminium cars they once made.
After the dust had settled, Kazume had persevered just fine. Their cars were back to the quality they once were, but the consumer market still had a bad taste in their mouth.
2014 Kazume Rebranding
With sales much lower than what they should have been, Kazume needed a way to gain consumer interest back into their cars. Starting in 2014, the Sales Department suggested a rebranding of some model names. The elaborate and interesting naming schemes for more than half of their vehicles was dropped in favor of a more German-style alphanumeric designation, that was still easy to understand. Some models, such as the Katsura and Solis, kept their names for familiarity’s sake. This was called the K2X rebranding. See ‘nomenclature’ under the Current Models section for more details.
Hokuto and Kazume are still partnered, with Hokuto investing in Kazume with an 11.2% share in 1968, which was increased to a 23% share in 1980. Hokuto and Kazume signed a deal in 2011 to allow the use of Hokuto four-cylinders in Kazume vehicles, and Hokuto reserved the right to use Kazume-developed all-wheel-drive systems in their cars and SUVs.
The K2X rebranding introduced a new naming scheme for many Kazume models.
The first character, always a K, represents Kazume.
The second character changes.
A represents a sedan or liftback.
X represents a crossover or SUV.
Z represents a coupe or convertible.
M represents an MPV.
The third character is a number, which designates the size in the lineup.
Current Models (Global – not all available in one specific country)
2017 – present KA2 - Subcompact RWD sedan
2015 – present KA6 - Compact Executive RWD Sedan
2016 – present KA8 - Executive RWD Sedan
1999 – present Azura - Compact family car
1980 – present Averis - Midsize family Sedan
1992 – present Xenia - Large family sedan/coupe
2017 – present KX2 - Subcompact Crossover
2015 – present KX3 - Compact Crossover
2014 – present KX5 - Midsize Crossover
2014 – present KX7 - 7-seater Midsize Crossover
2016 – present KM5 - Midsize MPV
2014 – present KM7 - Minivan
2019 – present KZR - Flagship GT Coupe
2001 – present Katsura - Pickup truck
1985 – present Solis - Entry-level Sports Car
Previous Models (being updated constantly)
1995 – 2014 Axent - Midsize car (rear wheel drive)
2007 – 2016 Asira - Compact car/3-door/5-door hatchback
1992 – 2009 Zarion - 7-seater MPV
1986 – 1999 828 - Fullsize sedan
1993 – 2000 K300 - Pickup truck