The History of Mitsubishi Group

Updated September 2, 2018

The history of Mitsubishi dates all the way back to 1870, when the famous Japanese company was first founded as a shipbuilding firm. The first iteration of the company was founded by Yataro Iwasaki and though they company specialized in shipping, it wasn’t long before the enterprise produced its first automobile. Today, the Mitsubishi Group is a multinational conglomerate that employs over 350,000 individuals and is comprised of subsidiaries that specialize in:

  • Aviation
  • Automotive Production
  • Chemicals
  • Electronics
  • Mining
  • Shipbuilding
  • Telecommunications
  • Financial services
  • Insurance
  • Heavy Machinery Production
  • Petroleum-Based Products
  • Real Estate

The Early History Of Mitsubishi

In 1873 Mitsubishi received its name which at the time was Mitsubishi Shokai which roughly translates the “three diamonds” such as you see on their company logo. The company started to diversify very quickly as it would start businesses that would relate to the shipping industry. Mitsubishi would find several niches they were deemed profitable if a business was so inclined to take part in. Mitsubishi would purchase a shipyard where the vessels that if used for shipping as well as started a cold mining facility as well as iron mill therefore getting it ships the coal they needed as well as the iron to manufacture vessels. On top of this the company would also start an insurance agency that catered to marine businesses such as shipping. The company would continue to quickly gain strength and capital and open up the first Mitsubishi bank in 1919.

History Of Mitsubishi Group 1

1917 was a landmark year in Mitsbishi history. Whilst still trading under the name of Mitsubishi Shipbuilding Co, the company would introduce its first Model A which would be Japan’s first production automobile. The vehicle was inexpensive and completely hand-built but in a four year period only 22 would be built. In 1920 Mitsubishi was the largest private company in Japan and started production on aircraft engines. In 1935 Mitsubishi Heavy Industries would gain contracts the Japanese Imperial Navy and start on the project such as aircraft carriers, airplanes, and battleships. During World War II Mitsubishi would produce its A6M Zero fighter for the Imperial Japanese Navy.

Post-War Mitsubishi History

Following World War II Mitsubishi would expand its overall company as well as resume production on its automotive vehicles. Mitsubishi would begin importation of vehicles from America including Kaiser Motors, Henry J and the Willys Jeep CJ-3B. During the 1960s Japan’s local economy would be rising therefore causing Mitsubishi to expand its operations from the company’s petroleum development as well as atomic power development. For Mitsubishi’s automotive sector the company was having issues as it had been split into three different companies due to a peace treaty signed after World War II therefore causing each company to work to produce its own vehicles and finally in 1970 each division would merge its auto industry to develop the Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.

History Of Mitsubishi Group 2

After the formation of Mitsubishi Motors Corporation the company would sell 15% of its shares to the Chrysler group which would then import the Mitsubishi Gallant and rebadged it as the Dodge Colt. This would help both companies as Dodge needed a small fuel efficient vehicle and this would help Mitsubishi to boost its annual production and sales of vehicles. The two companies would continue to produce vehicles built by Mitsubishi and imported and rebadged by Chrysler. During the early 80s Chrysler and Mitsubishi would start seeing rising issues with each other and to make matters worse Chrysler would be on the brink of bankruptcy. This would spurn Mitsubishi into forming its own product line for the American market. There’d still be strings attached the Chrysler as the companies were not completely separated. The late 80s Mitsubishi Motors would become publicly traded in which Chrysler would increase its overall holdings of the company to 20%.

Modern Mitsubishi History

The 90s would be a series of ups and downs for Mitsubishi Motors as the company would be dealing with the asset price bubble afflicting the country and all of its industries at the time. We would however be a time of rise for the company as they invested heavily in sport utility vehicles and would be the first to offer 4 x 4 SUVs to the Japanese automotive market which would help the company’s shares rise 11.6% throughout Japan. 1991 Chrysler would pull nearly all of its shares from Mitsubishi Motors making it completely independent in determining the future direction of the company. The company would again be it by a domestic recessive economic period that would create the worst losses for the company and its history. This would cause it to be sheet stock prices to fall sharply and would issue in a new company president. The beginning of 2000 more turmoil would cause problems for the Mitsubishi Motor Company as they would face several legal actions the company confessed to over 30 known defects in their vehicles causing a massive recall as well as the pending lawsuits against the company.

History Of Mitsubishi Group 3

To make matters even worse for the company, the US marketing strategy was to offer deferred payments for 12 months along with zero down the zero interest. This would cause an initial boost in sales but when time came for the loan to start being paid back on each vehicle many customers defaulted on their loans causing a $454 million financial backlash. Today Mitsubishi Motors is working to bring itself back into the American market as it is focusing heavily on electric vehicles as well as clean burning engine technologies. Today the company offers six different models in the U.S. market in several different variations including:


  • Lancer
  • Lancer Sportback
  • Lancer Evolution
  • Galant
  • Eclipse
  • Eclipse Spider
  • Outlander
  • Outlander Sport
  • Endeavor
  • I-MiEV



Uriah Nazario
About Uriah Nazario

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