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Mitsubishi has its roots in producing commercial vehicles for its home market of Japan. Its current selection of vehicles, which include cars, trucks and SUVs, tend to offer above-average performance and style.

A Japanese word meaning "three diamonds," Mitsubishi was founded in by Yataro Iwasaki, a descendant of samurais, in the early 1870s. The company's initial focus was on shipping, but it quickly diversified into areas such as mining and ship repair. In 1917, Mitsubishi unveiled the Model A, Japan's first series production passenger car. However, in the years that led up to World War II, the division responsible for transportation, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, was focused mainly on producing ships and vehicles for the war effort.

It wasn't until 1960, with the launch of the compact Mitsubishi 500, that the company began producing passenger vehicles on a large scale. That decade also saw the launch of other Mitsubishi light passenger vehicles like the 360 Van and 360 Pickup. The company also distinguished itself on the racetrack during this decade, taking top honors in Japan's Grand Prix.

Mitsubishi's automobile production arm was officially spun off into a company of its own with the establishment of Mitsubishi Motors Corporation in 1970. The company's Colt made its way to American shores in 1971, the same year in which Chrysler purchased a 15 percent stake in the new company. However, the line wasn't sold under the Mitsubishi name; reflecting Chrysler's interest in the company, Colts were sold in North America under the Dodge marque. By the end of the decade, Mitsubishi was producing more than 1 million cars per year, and its lineup had grown to include vehicles like the Galant and the Lancer. In 1982, Mitsubishi began selling cars in the U.S. under its own name.

Mitsubishi hit its stride in the '90s, thanks to the popularity of the sport-oriented Eclipse and 3000GT in the U.S. and the turbocharged Lancer Evolution in other parts of the world. In the years since Chrysler's initial investment in the company, Mitsubishi platforms have been widely used by the American automaker. The Eclipse, in particular, was a key vehicle produced by the Diamond Star Motors partnership. Rebadged versions of the Eclipse were sold in Plymouth and Eagle dealerships as well. In 1998, Chrysler merged with Daimler-Benz to become DaimlerChrysler. Mitsubishi's partnership continued with DaimlerChrysler for a few years but was financially terminated by 2003.

The new millennium has not been particularly good for Mitsubishi. Sales have wavered and the company was forced to admit that it had systematically covered up vehicle defects; the resulting furor led to the resignation and arrest of one of the automaker's former presidents. The brand has done much to turn itself around since then, streamlining its vehicle roster and improving quality.

 

 

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