Mitsubishi dates back to 1917 as a car company and introduced Japan’s first series production car, the Model A. Prewar, the company was an innovator, with Japan’s first diesel engine. The Fuso truck line emerged before World War II.
Postwar, Mitsubishi focused on buses and scooters, but the booming economy of the early 1960s saw the introduction of a small sedan, the 500. The Minica was introduced in 1962. The Colt and Galant lines also began in the 1960s.
Although the company had been dismantled into three separate units after the war, Mitsubishi Motors Corp. was established in 1970 to unify the brand’s automotive operations. The 1970s saw the company grow, with competition success (which continued in to the 2000s with the Lancer Evolution models) and supplying Chrysler, which took a stake in 1971, with captive imports in the US. It bought the Australian operations of Chrysler at the end of the decade. It also entered into an agreement with Hyundai of Korea in the 1970s, while Proton, the Malaysian state automaker, licensed its first model from Mitsubishi in the 1980s. In 1991, it entered into a joint venture with Volvo, and operated a Dutch factory with the company; and from 1999, it has cooperated on several occasions with Peugeot.
The company found itself in financial dire straits in the late 1990s, thanks to the Asian financial crisis, and suffered even further when certain cover-ups of vehicles’ defects were exposed in the early 2000s. The investment originally made by Chrysler, which was succeeded and expanded upon by DaimlerChrysler, ended in 2005. Some of its factories were closed, notably in Australia. It also failed to unify many of its ranges, with some countries being sold models that had long become obsolete in others. By the end of the 2000s, Mitsubishi was slowly rebuilding its range, with numerous niche vehicles, but conceded the mid-size sedan market, among others, in many countries. In 2016, having been exposed for lying about the fuel consumption of its kei cars supplied to Nissan under an OEM deal, Mitsubishi Motor Corp.’s share price fell, to a point where Renault–Nissan wound up buying a controlling stake in the beleaguered firm.
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