The Wankel "rotary" engines outperformed their piston-based competitors by a large margin, and Mazda made the most of the power-plant by putting it in almost every product they sold, from the Rotary Pickup to the RX-7, and even the large Luce sedan. The only exception was the Mazda Chantez keicar, because other car makers vetoed the move.
However, the 1970s also saw Mazda's first financial crisis, which led to Ford taking a 25% stake in the company. The first RX-7 released in 1978 would be a strong image leader for Mazda, but actual sales revival would not come until the early 1980s.
The 1980s saw Mazda transition from a niche Japanese player to a part of the global Ford empire. Having said that, the 80s saw the most mainstream success for Mazda. The early 80s 323 (GLC in North America) and 626 were massive hits, with the 323 taking the number one spot in Japanese car sales, overtaking the Toyota Corolla.
Mazda also contributed to Ford's lineup, most notably with the MX-6 based Ford Probe. Mazda also began building the new-for-1988 626/MX-6 in the United States. U.S. production was initiated via a joint venture with Ford called AutoAlliance International.
Mazda finished the decade with the revolutionary Eunos Roadster (Mazda MX-5 or Miata outside Japan) sports car (for the 1989 model year). This model revitalized the world sports car market, which was filled at the time with expensive, heavy GT cars. Despite complaints of plagiarizing the Lotus Elan, the Miata/MX5 has been very successful till this day.