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Mitsubishi Motors Corporation is the fourth largest auto-manufacturer in Japan, and in 2006 was ranked 782nd on Forbes' list of the 2000 largest public companies. It is part of the Mitsubishi keiretsu, formerly the largest industrial group in Japan.
Mitsubishi's automotive origins date back as far as 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 production was discontinued in 1921 after only 22 had been built.
Meanwhile, in 1920, the Mitsubishi Internal Combustion Engine Co., Ltd. was established to manufacture aircraft engines. It was renamed the Mitsubishi Aircraft Co. in 1928, before being merged with Mitsubishi Shipbuilding in 1934 to create Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI).
At the end of the Second World War, the zaibatsu (Japan's family-controlled industrial conglomerates) were dismantled by order of the Allied powers and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries was split into three regional companies, each with an involvement in motor vehicle development. The country's major need at this time was for commercial vehicles, the situation being further complicated during the first few years by a severe fuel shortage. Passenger vehicle production was confined primarily to Mitsubishi's first scooter.
By the beginning of the 1960s, however, Japan's economy was gearing up: wages were rising and the idea of family motoring was taking off. The Mitsubishi 500, a mass market sedan, was introduced to meet this demand, followed in 1962 by the Minica kei car, and the Colt family car. The three regional automotive companies were reintegrated as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in 1964, and within three years their 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 in 1970 as a wholly owned subsiduary of MHI under the chairmanship of Tomio Kubo, a successful engineer from the aircraft division.
Part of Kubo's expansion strategy was to increase exports by forging alliances with well-established foreign companies. Therefore, in 1971 MHI sold U.S. automotive giant Chrysler a 15% share in the new company. Thanks to this deal, Chrysler began selling rebadged Galants in the United States as Dodge Colts, pushing MMC's annual production beyond 250,000 vehicles.
By 1977, a network of "Colt"-branded distribution and sales dealerships had been established across Europe, as Mitsubishi sought to begin selling vehicles directly. Annual production had by now grown from 500,000 vehicles in 1973 to 965,000 in 1978. However, this expansion was beginning to cause friction; Chrysler saw their overseas markets for subcompacts as being directly encroached by their Japanese partners, while MMC felt the Americans were demanding too much say in their corporate decisions.
Mitsubishi finally achieved annual production of one million cars in 1980, but by this time its ally was not so healthy; As part of its battle to avoid bankruptcy, Chrysler was forced to sell its Australian manufacturing division to MMC that year. The new Japanese owners renamed it Mitsubishi Motors Australia Ltd (MMAL), and since then it has stood as one of the largest car production facilities in the country.
In 1982, the Mitsubishi brand was introduced to the American market for the first time. The Tredia sedan, and the Cordia and Starion coupés, were initially sold through 70 dealers in 22 states, with an allocation of 30,000 vehicles between them. This quota, restricted by mutual agreement between the two countries' governments, had to be included among the 120,000 cars earmarked for Chrysler. Toward the end of the 1980s, as MMC initiated a major push to increase its U.S. presence, it aired its first national television advertising campaign, and made plans to increase its dealer network to 340 dealers. By 1989, Mitsubishi's worldwide production, including its overseas affiliates, had reached 1.5 million units.
Despite the ongoing tensions between Chrysler and Mitsubishi, they agreed to unite in a vehicle manufacturing operation in Normal, Illinois. The 50/50 venture provided a way to circumvent the voluntary import restrictions, while providing a new line of compact and Subcompact cars for Chrysler. Diamond-Star Motors (DSM) - from the parent companies' logos: three diamonds (Mitsubishi) and a pentastar (Chrysler) - was incorporated in October 1985, and in April 1986 ground was broken on a 1.9 million square-foot (177,000 m²) production facility. In 1987, the company was selling 67,000 cars a year in the U.S., but when the plant was completed in March 1988 it offered an annual capacity of 240,000 vehicles. Initially, three platform-sharing compact 2+2 coupés were released, the Mitsubishi Eclipse, Eagle Talon and Plymouth Laser, with other models being introduced in subsequent years.
Mitsubishi Motors went public in 1988, ending its status as the only one of Japan's eleven auto manufacturers to be privately held. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries agreed to reduce its share to 25%, retaining its position as largest single stockholder. Chrysler, meanwhile, increased its holding to over 20%. The capital raised by this initial offering enabled Mitsubishi to pay off part of its debts, as well as to expand its investments throughout south-east Asia where it was by now operating in the Philippines, Malaysia, and Thailand.
Hirokazu Nakamura became president of Mitsubishi in 1989 and steered the company in some promising directions. Sales of the company's new Pajero were bucking conventional wisdom by becoming popular even in the crowded streets of Japan. Although sales of SUVs and light trucks were booming in the U.S., Japan's car manufacturers dismissed the idea that such a trend could occur in their own country. Nakamura, however, increased the budget for sport utility product development, and his gamble paid off; Mitsubishi's wide line of four-wheel drive vehicles, from the Mitsubishi Pajero Mini kei car to the Delica Space Gear passenger van, rode the wave of SUV-buying in Japan in the early to mid-1990s, and Mitsubishi saw its overall domestic share rise to 11.6% in 1995.
In 1991, Chrysler sold its equity stake in Diamond Star Motors to its partner, and from then on they continued to share components and manufacturing on a contractual basis only. Chrysler decreased its interest in Mitsubishi Motors to less than 3% in 1992, and announced its decision to divest itself of all its remaining shares on the open market in 1993. The two companies nevertheless continued their close alliance, with Chrysler supplying engines and transmissions for DSM, and Mitsubishi marketing Chrysler products overseas.
DSM was officially renamed to Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc. (MMNA) Manufacturing Division on July 1st, 1995.
Mitsubishi models:
* 3000GT
* 380
* 500
* Adventure
* Airtrek
* Aspire
* Carisma
* Challenger
* Chariot
* Colt
* Cordia
* Debonair
* Delica
* Diamante
* Dignity
* Dingo
* Dion
* eK
* Eclipse
* Emeraude
* Endeavor
* Eterna
* Expo
* Forte
* Freeca
* Galant
* Galant GTO
* Galant VR-4
* Galant Lambda
* Grandis
* Grunder
* i
* Jeep
* Jolie
* Kuda
* L200
* L300
* Lancer
* Lancer 1600 GSR
* Lancer Evolution
* Lancer WRC
* Legnum
* Libero
* Magna
* Maven
* Mighty Max
* Minica
* Minicab
* Mirage
* Colt EV
* Eclipse EV
* Model A
* Montero
* Montero Sport
* Montero iO
* Nativa
* Nimbus
* Outlander
* Pajero
* Pajero Junior
* Pajero Mini
* Pajero Pinin
* Pajero Sport
* Pajero iO
* Pistachio
* Precis
* Proudia
* Raider
* Sapporo
* Scorpion
* Shogun
* Shogun Pinin
* Shogun Sport
* Sigma
* Space Gear
* Space Runner
* Space Star
* Starion
* Strada
* Toppo
* Town Bee
* Town Box
* Towny
* Tredia
* Triton