The history and unknown story of Mitsubishi Motors Co.

imiev mitsubishi500

Do you know Mitsubishi Motors' origin and first hit?

  • The origin of Mitsubishi Motors is the Tsukumo Trading Company.
  • The first great hit was Minica in 1962.
  • Mitsubishi Motors developed the first mass-production EV "i-MiEV" in the world.

Mitsubishi Motors Co. is a Japanese multinational automobile manufacturer. Mitsubishi Co. or Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd was the largest stockholder of it for a long time. However, Nissan Motor Co. is the largest stockholder of it since 2016. Mitsubishi Motors Co. has been part of the Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance which stood No.1 of the number of automobiles sold ranking in 2017.

The origin of Mitsubishi Motors is the Tsukumo Trading Company founded by Yataro Iwasaki who was a Japanese famous industrialist and financier. Tsukumo Trading Co. became Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. in 1934. Mitsubishi Motors made other automobile manufacturers' car body as a part of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in 1950s. It learned a technology of automobile production from Nissan's Datsun and TOYOTA's SA (Toyopet).

Mitsubishi Motors succeeded to make the first original car "Mitsubishi 500" in 1960. It promoted selling this car, but this car was not popular because of price or design. It stopped to make this car just one year later. The first great hit for it was Minica in 1962. Minica was popular because it had the largest trunk then though it was small. Minica was on sale for 49 years with restyle and minor change. GALANT was also a great hit and on sale until 2017.

mitsubishi 500

Mitsubishi Motors spun off from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in 1970 as joint venture between Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Chrysler. The first great hit after spin off was Lancer in 1973. It was sold as main product of small sedan. The sports car "LANCER Evolution" was derived from it. Mitusbishi Motors won Rally Sweden of WRC(World Rally Championship) for the first time in 1995 by LANCER Evolution.

In 2000, Mitsubishi Motors' business worsened because it hushed up recalls and falsified fuel efficiency test data. Some board members resigned, and announced the revival plan for Mitsubishi Motors in 2005. It received additional support for capital increase from other Mitsubishi group companies, Mitsubishi Co., Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and MUFG Bank. Mitsubishi Motors became a consolidated subsidiary of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries again. It swung back into the black by restructuring and reducing cost in 2007.

Mitsubishi Motors developed the first mass-production EV "i-MiEV" in the world two years later. The first model of this car could run 120km(74.5 miles) by its lithium-ion battery without charging. This car also sold in Europe as Peugeot Ion and Citroën C-Zero. Mitsubishi Motors' high technology spread anew though the sales of this car was the red.


However, Mitsubishi Motors' business worsened again because it falsified fuel efficiency test data again. Nissan Motor Co. offered its help, and became the largest shareholder of it. They and Renault made a work partnership called Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance. Mitsubishi Motors and Nissan Motor Co. established a joint venture company "NMKV" for making EV. Though Mitsubishi Motors stopped to make i-MiEV in 2021, its technology is passed to NMKV. On the other hand, Mitsubishi Motors made a partnership with Google for connected car in 2018.

By the way, Mitsubishi Motors also won the championship of Dakar Rally. It won in 1985 for the first time, and won 12 times. However, it stopped to run this race since 2009. Hiroshi Masuoka who won second consecutive championship titles works PR and development sections of Mitsubishi Motors.

Mitsubishi Motors Co. is listed in Tokyo Stock Exchange(TYO:7211). Foreign investors can invest in its stocks through many ETFs, MAXIS Nikkei 225 ETF(NKY), iShares MSCI Japan ETF(EWJ), Wisdomtree Japan Hedged ETF(DXJ) and more.