Mitsubishi History: Pioneering the Roads with Innovation and Resilience

Explore the Road Less Traveled: Discover the Inspiring History of Mitsubishi

1870 – 1880 – In search of your identity

The history of Mitsubishi Motors Corporation dates back to 1870 when Tsukumo Shokai separated from the Tosa Clan company and founded his own company. Yataro Iwasaki was elected president of the business, which in 1873 acquired the name of Mitsubishi Shokai.

1881 – 1890 – Government purchase

Yanosuke Iwasaki became president of the company in 1885. Two years later acquired the Nagasaki Shipyard company, owned by the Japanese government.

1891 – 1900 – Mitsubishi Goshi Kaisha

In 1893 Mitsubishi Goshi Kaisha was created, whose president is 

Hisaya Iwasaki. – 1901 – 1910 – The beginnings

Mitsubishi Shipyard began its operations in 1905.

1911 – 1920 – The first vehicle

The Mitsubishi brand, and its three diamonds, was registered in 1914. Two years later, Koyata Iwasaki became president, and the company finally began the development of the first car, the Model-A.

1921 – 1930 – Internal combustion engines

In 1921, Mitsubishi began the manufacture of internal combustion engines.

1931 – 1940 – Inauguration of the Maruko plant

In 1932 the Mitsubishi Fuso bus was developed. On the other hand, the company acquires the new Mitsubishi Heavy-Industries (1934). 3 years later, production begins on a prototype based on the PX33 all-wheel-drive military vehicle. The decade concludes with the inauguration of the Maruko plant (Tamagawa Kiki Manufacturing, 1938).

1941 – 1950 – Tricycles and motorcycles

In 1943 the Mizushima Aircraft Manufacturing (later to become the Mizushima plant) and the Kawasaki Kiki Manufacturing were established. The Kyoto Kiki Manufacturing (later, the Kyoto plant) was born in Uzumasa. In 1946 a small three-wheeled cargo vehicle was developed, the Mizushima (XTM1). In addition, production of the Fuso bus is resumed, and a scooter, the Silver Pigeon, is launched. 

Kyoto Kiki Manufacturing began production of the Katsura industrial engine. Mitsubishi Heavy-Industries is divided into East Japan Heavy-Industries (later, Mitsubishi Nihon Heavy-Industries), Central Japan Heavy-Industries (later, Shin Mitsubishi Heavy-Industries), and West Japan Heavy-Industries (later, Mitsubishi Shipbuilding & Engineering). The decade closes with the establishment of Fuso Motor Sales.

1951 – 1960 – The first compact

East Japan began the production and sale of the Henry J. passenger car in 1951. Two years later, Central Japan Heavy-Industries took over the production of the Jeep SUV thanks to an agreement with Willis. In 1954, the Kyoto plant created the first JH4 four-cylinder gasoline engine for the Jeep, while the small Mizushima was renamed the Mitsubishi-Go. Finally, Shin Mitsubishi Heavy-Industries launched the Mitsubishi 500, the brand’s first compact with four wheels.

1961 – 1970 – Mitsubishi Motors Corporation

Shin Mitsubishi Heavy-Industries continues to release models: 360 Van, 360 Pick Up, Colt 600, and Minica (1962). The Okazaki test track is completed on this exact date, and the Mitsubishi 500 Super Deluxe wins the title in its class at the Macau Grand Prix. 

In 1963 the Colt 1000 arrived, which achieved the triumph in its class in the second edition of the ‘Japan Grand Prix Auto Races.’ At the same time, the three “Heavy-Industries” merge into one, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Likewise, Mitsubishi Motor Sales Corporation was created, and the Debonair, a high-end car, was launched. The Colt 1500 arrived in 1965, and a year later, the Mitsubishi Minicab appeared.

Meanwhile, the Colt continues to reap victories until the end of the decade. On the other hand, the brand signs an agreement with Isuzu that lasts until the following year and launches the Delica and Colt Galant models. The decade concludes with the arrival of the Colt Galant GTO and the founding of Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.

1971-1979 – International expansion

Mitsubishi based its expansion strategy on increasing exports on establishing alliances with well-established foreign companies. Thus, in 1971 it sold a 15 per cent stake to the automobile giant Chrysler in the US. Thanks to this agreement, Chrysler began to sell the Galant in the United States as the Dodge Colt, increasing the annual production of MMC beyond the 250,000 vehicles. In 1977, the Galant was sold as the Chrysler Sigma in Australia.

In 1977, MMC established a network of dealerships throughout Europe and began to sell its vehicles directly. Annual production had grown from 500,000 cars in 1973 to 965,000 in 1978. However, this expansion was beginning to cause friction; Chrysler saw its markets outside the United States is directly invaded by its Japanese partners, while MMC felt that the Americans demanded too much weight in their business decisions.

1980-1989 Reach one million units

Mitsubishi reached an annual production of one million cars in 1980, but its ally was not so beneficial by then. Chrysler was forced to sell its Australian manufacturing division MMC that year to avoid bankruptcy.

In 1982, it was introduced to the American market for the first time. The Tredia sedan and the Cordia and Starion coupes were initially sold through seventy dealers in 22 states, with staffing of 30,000 vehicles. This quota, restricted by mutual agreement between the two countries’ governments, had to be included among the 120,000 vehicles destined for Chrysler. Towards the end of the decade, MMC began a significant effort to increase its presence in the US, broadcasting its first advertising campaign on national television and making plans to expand its network to 340 distributors.

By 1989, Mitsubishi’s world production, including its subsidiaries abroad, had reached 1.5 million units, making it the third-largest Japanese manufacturer after Daihatsu and Suzuki.

1990-1999 – Chrysler sells its stake

In 1992 Chrysler reduced its stake in Mitsubishi Motors to less than three per cent and announced its decision to divest its remaining shares in the market in 1993. However, the two companies continued their close alliance by sharing components and manufacturing, albeit only contractual.

In 1992 the rumour spread that Mitsubishi Motors intended a hostile takeover of Honda, which ultimately did not occur. Meanwhile, Mitsubishi was at the top of profitable vehicles, with models such as the Diamante and the Montero, which allowed it to increase its profits by 11.6% in 1995. 

2000-Act – Hybrid and electric

The new century does not start well for the Japanese brand, which sees its revenues have been drastically reduced, leading to losses. In 2006, the recovery began and gave benefits again. In 2006, the second generation of Mitsubishi Outlander was put on sale due to a collaboration with the PSA group. In 2007 and 2008, they launched the new generation of the Lancer and Lancer Evolution. But the long-term plans of the diamond brand go through the electric vehicle

In 2009, it began selling the i-MiEV, a fully electric car with a lithium-ion battery under its floor, and in 2013 they launched the third-generation Outlander with a plug-in hybrid variant. In 2015, Mitsubishi intended to have up to eight hybrid or electric models available.

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