Unlike some of the more niche JDM brands that you’ll find in the Japanese imports market, like Mitsuoka for example, Mitsubishi is a hugely recognizable brand name. The company, based out of Minato, Tokyo, Japan has a long history dating back half a century. While not as old as some of the other “big boys” in Japan like Toyota, Honda and Nissan that can trace their histories back to as early as the 1930s, Mitsubishi nonetheless has a detailed and colourful history, and while not formally trading as Mitsubishi Motors until 1970, has experience in the automotive sector going all the way back to 1917.
Mitsubishi Cars In The UK
Mitsubishi models of many stripes are already available in the UK, but one thing that Mitsubishi does share with its Japanese compatriot companies is that there are still yet more models that are kept back initially for the domestic market that we for years may have no access to unless we happened to move to Japan ourselves. Thanks to the marvels of JDM imports and a whole new automotive marketplace like this one, we can now share in at least some of these models.
Mitsubishi: Company Background
Despite being younger as a corporate entity than some of the other above-mentioned Japanese auto giants, Mitsubishi actually got its first taste of automotive industry development back in 1917 when the then Mitsubishi Shipbuilding company gave us the country’s first-ever series-production model, the Mitsubishi Model A. It was a one-of-a-kind, 7-seater sedan made entirely by hand, and inspired by the Italian Fiat Tipo 3. The sad part of this story is that only 22 of them were ever built, and the shipbuilding company never tried to continue that line, feeling they couldn’t compete with their American and European counterparts on price or efficiency.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), the precursor to the Mitsubishi Motors Corporation was founded in a merger of the shipbuilding company with Mitsubishi Aircraft Co. Ltd. MHI was, at the time, the largest company in the country, and built all kinds of machinery, including a prototype sedan car, the PX33. This model was intended for military use, but interestingly was also the first one to feature 4WD as a full-time drive feature.
And so, Japan’s war in Asia began, closely followed by an integration into the wider World War II conflict which saw many Japanese corporations divert their effort and attention to creating material and machinery for the war effort. After the war’s conclusion, as Japan sought to rebuild itself, Mitsubishi returned to the world of vehicles, working on the Fuso bus, and even a scooter known as the Silver Pigeon.
Times in the post-war year were tough, however, as the Allied victors ordered many of Japans biggest companies broken up, and that included the then-largest, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. After a number of years operating as smaller entities, producing some well-known historical models in the meantime like the Mitsubishi 500 and the Mitsubishi Debonair, as well as the Mitsubishi Galant in 1969, Iwasaki Yataro and his various associates came together to found the single entity that we now know – Mitsubishi Motors Corporation – in 1970.
A Company of Alliances
Over the years, the Mitsubishi corporate strategy has largely been built on the idea of alliances with other companies, especially overseas companies. It was felt that this would help Mitsubishi gain some advantage in the competitive international marketplace. The most notable and lasting alliance they held historically was that with American group Chrysler.
The partnership with Chrysler took Mitsubishi through the 1970s and 1980s, but not without their fair share of ups and downs. There grew many tensions between the two companies, but they still managed to put together an impressive joint operation in Normal, Illinois, Diamond-Star Motors, which broke ground in 1986 and was completed in 1988, capable of producing some 240,000 vehicles each year.
Success continued through the 1980s, and a change in leadership in 1989 saw Hirokazu Nakamura taking control of the company. At first, he was seen as a breath of fresh air and was the chief figure in helping solidify Mitsubishi’s reputation as a top producer of SUV models. By the 2000s, however, things were starting to go pear-shaped for Mitsubishi.
A Decade of Scandal and Near Collapse
The 2000s were a tumultuous time for the company. Mitsubishi was rocked by scandals involving recall coverups and general corruption within the organization. In the years that followed, as the company was near death, the old corporate parent, MHI, stepped back into the picture with other Mitsubishi entities to rescue the company and reincorporate it back into their portfolio.
As of 2016, Mitsubishi now finds itself in a new grand coalition, this time as part of the already-giant Renault-Nissan alliance, which was already in place. Nissan has already gained a significant stake of 34% in Mitsubishi motors, which has opened the doors for technology sharing between the two entities. As part of this new group, Mitsubishi is now a company that together with its Renault and Nissan “allies” is responsible for 1 in 9 of every car sale around the world.
Mitsubishi as Japanese Imports: UK Cars
Two model families stand out in the world of Mitsubishi imports to the UK, and they are the Mitsubishi Delica and the Mitsubishi Pajero. The latter includes the Pajero Junior mini-SUV model.
Mitsubishi Delica (1968-Present)
The Delica has been around since 1968, and until 1994 also existed as a pickup truck. The range of vans and trucks proved extremely popular domestically for their light build, affordability and general reliability. They have since become something of a legend among JDM enthusiasts in the UK, either as collectors’ items or as a great choice of affordable people carrier.
Mitsubishi Pajero (1981-2021)
The Pajero has enjoyed a long production run as it now heads into its final model year. The mini-SUV model, the Pajero Junior had a shorter production run of just 3 years from 1995 to 1998. The Pajero has earned a lasting place in the hearts of many drivers, but also was greatly popularized by its success in motorsport, including rally. The long history of this car means there are many variants available for JDM importers, with many wanting to get their hands on the unique specifications that the Japanese imports cars could offer.
Mitsubishi – Diamonds are Forever
In the modern age, Mitsubishi continues its fightback for a place among the top producers. Its new alliance is helping greatly with shared innovation from Renault and Nissan, and the Mitsubishi name is once again gaining purchase in the minds of British and other countries’ drivers.
While some chase the new burgeoning Mitsubishi crossover models, many continue to seek out the classic range of Pajero, Pajero Junior and Delica models that sit out there ready to be snapped up by the right buyer. Like so many other models in the JDM sphere, Mitsubishi is a brand bursting at the seams with automotive treasure.
Take some time to explore our range of Mitsubishi imports for sale here in the UK. These Japanese imports 4×4 models and Japanese imported vans are real gems and can provide you with an affordable and unique vehicle from the company’s recent or more distant past. Check out our selection now.