Mitsubishi is made up of a group of Japanese multinational companies. They have had extraordinary motorsport success, especially in endurance racing. How did this come about? Where do the three diamonds in the logo come from? And what else do they make? Here we will look at some of their biggest achievements, failures and explore its legacy.
Yataro Iwasaki founded The Mitsubishi Company in 1870. When the company was first established its primary business activity was in shipping. It diversified into shipping related businesses, buying their own coal mine to fuel their ships, and a shipyard to repair them. They even started a marine insurance company to insure their cargo.
Mitsubishi and Jackie Chan have been partners for 30 years. He has almost exclusively used Mitsubishi cars in his films, and even has an annual celebrity race named after him, The Jackie Chan Cup. Mr. Chan is also the honourary Director of Team Ralliart in China, and to honour him in 2005 they produced a limited run of Jackie Chan special editions Lancer Evo IX’s.
Ethics? What ethics?
Mitsubishi caused one of the biggest corporate scandals in Japanese history when it was discovered they had been covering up 30 defects, over a 27-year period. This caused them to have to recall nearly 1 Million vehicles, and led to the resignation and arrest of the company president and 23 other employees. Some of the defects were as serious as failing brakes, and being prone to rolling over. This also led to Mitsubishi getting sued by individual people.
Mitsubishi has had success in motorsport since day one. They won the East African Safari Rally on their first attempt in the early seventies, and within 2 years they were occupying every step on the podium. This was a testament to the durability of the cars, as only 20% of the starters reached the finish line.
Big on diversification
As well as the automotive arm, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries also consists of a nuclear power company, a chemical company (Japans largest), Nikon, which specializes in optics and imaging, and a power generation company. In addition to these there is also Mitsubishi Bank, which in 2004 became Japans largest bank.
Popcorn and Punches
Whilst the bulk of Mitsubishis appearances on the silver screen have been due to the long standing relationship with Jackie Chan, the cult street racer status achieved by the Lancer Evo has led to many more. They have appeared in all the Fast and Furious Movies. A Starion Turbo was one of the main cars in Cannonball Run II. Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman used Mitsubishi’s as support vehicles for their epic journey, Long Way Round.
Get to Dakar
Mitsubishi have enjoyed extraordinary success in what is one of the worlds most respected motorsport events. The Dakar is renowned for its toughness. It took Mitsubishi a mere three years to rise to the top of the pile, and one they had discovered the winning formula the successes just kept coming, scoring a more than respectable 17 successive victories.
During the Second World War Mitsubishi manufactured aircraft. The A6M was the main fighter used by the Japanese, and due to its maneuverability, was the perfect plane for kamikaze pilots. Mitsubishi would use allied POW’s, as well as Chinese and Korean citizens, as forced labour.
The Three Diamond logo
The Mitsubishi name is made up of two words, Mitsu means three, and Hishi roughly translates to water chestnut, or water caltrop. This led to the 3-diamond logo we have today.
Over the years Mitsubishi has partnered with many other manufacturers. Volvo, Peugeot, Proton, Hyundai, and Colt. Its biggest alliance was with Chrysler, after initially entering into a joint venture in the 70’s, the company started to purchase large amounts of shares in Mitsubishi. By 2004 the economic downturn led to the shares being mostly sold, and Mitsubishi once again returning to Japanese ownership.