Hugh Pickens writes writes: "After a 45-year production run that included powering the first and only Japanese car to win the 24-hour Le Mans endurance race, Mazda Motor Corp announced that the latest edition of the Mazda RX-8 will end production in June 2012. The Japanese automaker, based in Hiroshima, introduced its first rotary engine car in 1967 and is the only automaker in the world that makes rotary engine vehicles, once the darling of the automotive industry in the early 1970s.. Such engines have fewer moving parts and are quieter than comparable piston engines but are more expensive to manufacture and consume more fuel. Cumulative sales of Mazda vehicles with rotary engines total about 1.995 million but Mazda sold only 2,896 RX-8 cars last year, with 1,245 of them in North America and 963 in Japan. “Although R-X production is ending, the rotary engine will always represent the spirits of Mazda, and Mazda remains committed to its ongoing development,” says Mazda Chief Executive and President Takashi Yamanouchi recalling the victory of Mazda’s rotary engine at Le Mans 20 years ago, and calling the rotary engine “iconic.” Mazda does not have flashy green technologies in its lineup that its bigger Japanese rivals do — such as the hybrids at Toyota Motor Corp. or electric vehicles at Nissan Motor Co. The fading away of its prized rotary engine — although largely symbolic — is yet another blow."