The history of Mitsubishi starts in 1870. That’s when Yataro Iwasaki started a shipping firm with only three steamships. Time would see Mitsubishi venturing into many different areas, one of which was the automobile industry.
While Mitsubishi’s steamships still sailed the seas, it came out with their Model A. Handmade, it was a truly beautiful car. This early motor vehicle seated seven and was good for 35 hp, boasting top speeds of 20 mph. However, since the Model A was handmade, it was very costly to produce. Unable to compete with American and European cars, the Model A was discontinued.
Though it never entered full production, the Mitsubishi PX33 proved essential in establishing the automaker’s engineering prowess. Originally built for the military, the PX33 was the first car designed in Japan to feature four-wheel drive. This feature would prove to largely define Mitsubishi vehicles in later years.
America first came to know Mitsubishi automobiles by a different name: The Dodge Dart hit the market in 1970, but it wasn’t a Dodge at all. It was a Mitsubishi Galant. The Dart was what is called a captive import, where a vehicle is sold under the name of a domestic brand through their network to increase its sales.
During the ensuing years, vehicles bearing the Mitsubishi nameplate eventually made their way into the American market. In 1989, the Mitsubishi Galant VR-4 was named Import of the Year by Motor Trend.
Mitsubishi’s engineering expertise would win the automaker all sorts of acclaim and all sorts of business. They developed Silent Shaft technology, reducing vibrations in four-cylinder engines, and licensed the tech to Porsche, Saab and Fiat. Mitsubishi was also the first company to develop Traction Control.
Today Mitsubishi is a respected automaker, still known for their refined engineering. The Mitsubishi i-MiEV is America’s most affordable electric car, and the Mitsubishi Mirage stands at the top of its subcompact class for fuel efficiency. Meanwhile, the Mitsubishi Outlander is one of the safest family-size SUVs on the market.