Mitsubishi entered the automobile industry in 1917 with the introduction of the Model A, which was Japan’s first look at a series produced auto. The Mitsubishi Shipbuilding Co was actually responsible for those first vehicles. These were hand built seven seaters that were for too expensive for the average individual to purchase. Compared to the cost of American and European mass produced vehicles of the time, the Model A was not practical expense wise and the car was discontinued after just a few were produced. niceasicminer
Mitsubishi would not get back into the car business for twenty years when Mitsubishi Shipbuilding joined Mitsubishi Aircraft to create Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in 1920. In 1937, they decided to try their luck at car building again. This time they were somewhat more successful. The first car, the PX33, was a sedan designed for use by the military. The research and development of this vehicle would be called upon fifty years later when Mitsubishi began to pioneer the motorsports industry.
From the mid 1940’s through the early 1960’s, Mitsubishi still manufactured mostly commercial vehicles. With the end of World War, two heavy sanctions were leveled on Japan. The focus of the Allied powers was to curtail severely Japan’s capacity to create war weapons and vehicles that could be used for military purposes. Most of Japans industry involved family controlled conglomerates and by 1950, the Allied powers were requiring that these be dismantled for that purpose. Mitsubishi Heavy Industry happened to be one of these conglomerates. It was subsequently split into three regional companies: West Japan Heavy-Industries, Central Japan Heavy-Industries and East Japan Heavy-Industries. All three companies remained in the field of automotive development.
Japan’s economy slowly began to recover for the devastation of World War Two and by the sixties, was well on its way to solid grown. With most citizens wages increasing, many people were interested in purchasing vehicles Central Japan Heavy-Industries had, by this time become Shin Mitsubishi Heavy Industries introduced the first mass produced vehicle to become available on the Japanese market. The Mitsubishi 500 was a four-door sedan, which was quickly followed by the Minica kei car. The first of many Colts followed soon after.
By 1964, the original three regional companies had reunited to reform Mitsubishi Shipbuilding and Engineering. They were able to launch successfully the first Mitsubishi Gallant in 1969 and the success of this vehicle precipitated the company’s move to focus solely on the passenger car market. Mitsubishi Motors Corporation was officially born from this decision. This was made official on April 22, 1970.
The company began to shop for a foreign automaker to collaborate with in hopes of expanding the market to beyond Japanese borders. They found a will cohort in Chrysler who promptly purchased a 15% share of the Japanese automaker. Chrysler used this partnership to sell Galants in the United States as Dodge Colts. Previously Mitsubishi had been unable to push beyond 75,000 units produced annually due to the relatively small size of Japan. With Chryslers need for Galants to sell in the United States, production requirements increased steadily until Mitsubishi was produce more than 250,000 vehicles annually.
As Mitsubishi began to expand globally, it was able to build a strong presence in the Asian market place. This provided quite a bit of cash flow for the company initially. However, beginning in 1997 the Asian market began to experience a run of financial earthquakes and before long Asia was experiencing a market meltdown. Because Mitsubishi had occupied a bigger and bigger presence in the Asian market place, let attention was paid to expanding trade to the United States. This hurt Mitsubishi badly when the Thailand’s currency crashed. With sales in Japan virtually nonexistent, Mitsubishi was faced with the worst company losses ever in 1997.