Mitsubishi

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Mitsubishi Motors Corporation is a multinational automotive manufacturer headquartered in Minato, Tokyo, Japan. In 2011, Mitsubishi Motors was the sixth biggest Japanese automaker and the sixteenth biggest worldwide by production. It is part of theMitsubishi keiretsu, formerly the biggest industrial group in Japan, and was formed in 1970 from the automotive division of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

History

Workers at Mitsubishi Shipbuilding Co., Ltd alongside one of the prototypeMitsubishi Model A automobiles.

Mitsubishi’s automotive origins date back to 1917, when the Mitsubishi Shipbuilding Co., Ltd. introduced the Mitsubishi Model A, Japan’s first series-production automobile. An entirely hand-built seven-seater sedan based on the Fiat Tipo 3, it proved expensive compared to its American and European mass-produced rivals, and was discontinued in 1921 after only 22 had been built.

In 1934, Mitsubishi Shipbuilding was merged with the Mitsubishi Aircraft Co., a company established in 1920 to manufacture aircraft engines and other parts. The unified company was known as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), and was the largest private company in Japan. MHI concentrated on manufacturing aircraft, ships, railroad cars and machinery, but in 1937 developed the PX33, a prototype sedan for military use. It was the first Japanese-built passenger car with full-time four-wheel drive, a technology the company would return to almost fifty years later in its quest for motorsport and sales success.

A 1937 Mitsubishi PX33 on display at the Mondial de l’Automobile in September 2006.

 

The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, also known as the Evo,[1] is a high performance sports car manufactured by Mitsubishi Motors that is based on the normal Lancer. There have been ten official versions to date, and the designation of each model is most commonly a Roman numeral. All use two litre, turbocharged engines and all-wheel drive systems.[2]

The Evolution was originally intended only for Japanese markets, but demand on the “grey import” market led the Evolution series to be offered through Ralliart dealer networks in the United Kingdom and in various European markets from around 1998. Mitsubishi decided to export the eighth generation Evolution to the United States in 2003 after witnessing the success Subaru had in that market with their long-time direct rival, the Subaru Impreza WRX STi.[3]

Japanese-spec cars were limited by a gentlemen’s agreement to advertise no more than 280 PS (206 kW; 276 hp), a mark already reached by Evolution IV. Therefore, each subsequent version has unofficially evolved above the advertised power figures, with the Japanese-spec Evolution IX reaching an alleged output of around 321 PS (236 kW; 317 hp). Various versions available in other markets, particularly the UK, have official power outputs up to 446 PS (328 kW; 440 hp).

The tenth generation of the Lancer Evolution was launched in Japan 2007, and overseas markets in 2008.

Post-war era

Immediately following the end of the Second World War, the company returned to manufacturing vehicles. Fuso bus production resumed, while a small three-wheeled cargo vehicle called the Mizushima and a scooter called the Silver Pigeon were also developed. However, thezaibatsu (Japan’s family-controlled industrial conglomerates) were ordered to be dismantled by the Allied powers in 1950, and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries was split into three regional companies, each with an involvement in motor vehicle development: West Japan Heavy-Industries, Central Japan Heavy-Industries, and East Japan Heavy-Industries.

East Japan Heavy-Industries began importing the Henry J, an inexpensive American sedan built by Kaiser Motors, in knockdown kit (CKD) form in 1951, and continued to bring them to Japan for the remainder of the car’s three-year production run. The same year, Central Japan Heavy-Industries concluded a similar contract with Willys (now owned by Kaiser) for CKD-assembled Jeep CJ-3Bs. This deal proved more durable, with licensed Mitsubishi Jeeps in production until 1998, thirty years after Willys themselves had replaced the model.

By the beginning of the 1960s Japan’s economy was gearing up; wages were rising and the idea of family motoring was taking off. Central Japan Heavy-Industries, now known as Shin Mitsubishi Heavy-Industries, had already re-established an automotive department in its headquarters in 1953. Now it was ready to introduce the Mitsubishi 500, a mass market sedan, to meet the new demand from consumers. It followed this in 1962 with the Minica kei car and the Colt 1000, the first of its Colt line of family cars, in 1963.

West Japan Heavy-Industries (now renamed Mitsubishi Shipbuilding & Engineering) and East Japan Heavy-Industries (now Mitsubishi Nihon Heavy-Industries) had also expanded their automotive departments in the 1950s, and the three were re-integrated as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in 1964. Within three years its output was over 75,000 vehicles annually. Following the successful introduction of the first Galant in 1969 and similar growth with its commercial vehicle division, it was decided that the company should create a single operation to focus on the automotive industry. Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) was formed on April 22, 1970 as a wholly owned subsidiary of MHI under the leadership of Tomio Kubo, a successful engineer from the aircraft division.

The logo of three red diamonds, shared with over forty other companies within the keiretsu, predates Mitsubishi Motors itself by almost a century. It was chosen by Iwasaki Yatarō, the founder of Mitsubishi, as it was suggestive of the emblem of the Tosa Clan who first employed him, and because his own family crest was three rhombuses stacked atop each other. The name Mitsubishi is a portmanteau of mitsu (“three”) and hishi (literally, “water chestnut”, often used in Japanese to denote a diamond or rhombus)

 

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