Mitsubishi’s origins lie in the founding of modern Japan, when technology from elsewhere in the world was filtering to Japanese society. Founder Yataro Iwasaki worked for the powerful Tosa clan and set up his own shipping company, Tsukumo Shokai, with the help of three of the clan’s steam ships in 1870. This is where the seeds of Mitsubishi Motors were sown.
The company that would become Mitsubishi underwent several name changes, including Mitsukawa Shokai, Mitsubishi Shokai, and several variants. Eventually, Iwasaki became successful enough to open Japan’s very first shipping company overseas - Mitsubishi Mail Steamship Company in China. Following Mitsubishi’s success, the Japanese government sponsored the growth of a competitor; however, this proved to be a bad decision, as it nearly bankrupted both companies.
In 1885, Iwasaki died of cancer and his brother inherited the company. He would eventually go on the solve the economic rift between Mitsubishi and its competitor by merging the two together, creating Nippon Yusen, or NYK. In the following years, Mitsubishi turned its sights away from the sea and towards transportation on land.
Yanosuke Iwasaki, the new executive of Mitsubishi, diversified the company’s products by expanding its position in industries such as banking, insurance, and warehousing, and in 1890 he purchased 80 acres of land near the Imperial Palace. In 1893, Yanosuke’s son Hisaya took over and further diversified Mitsubishi’s portfolio, but it wasn’t until Hisaya’s successor Koyata took on the company in 1916 that the company delved into the automobile industry and set the standard for incredible innovation we know today.
Unfortunately, due to complications from World War II, Mitsubishi was unable to resume its production until the 1950s, when the company set the stage for unprecedented economic growth in Japan. Mitsubishi expanded its automobile lineup and established a name for itself in the worldwide community. That reputation has lasted until today, as Mitsubishi continues to deliver quality products that live up to its rich heritage.