Mitsubishi Motors automotive tradition goes back to 1917 when the Mitsubishi Model A, Japan's first series-production automobile, was introduced. Over the next two decades the company established themselves as an innovator, developing, amongst others, Japan's first diesel engine, it's first large-sized bus (the start of the world famous Fuso commercial vehicle series), it's first four-wheel drive passenger car prototype, and it's first diesel-powered truck.
At the end of the Second World War Japan's large industrial groups were dismantled by order of the Allied powers and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries was split into three regional companies, each with an involvement in motor vehicle development.
The country's major need at this time was for commercial vehicles, the situation being further complicated during the first few years by a severe fuel shortage. In consequence 1946 saw the introduction of a bus which could be run on either petrol or alternative fuels, and, in 1947, an electric bus; in the truck field the innovations continued with Japan's first truck to be equipped with an air suspension system, as well as the first tilt-cab truck. Passenger vehicle production was confined primarily to Mitsubishi's first scooter.
By the beginning of the 1960s, however, Japan's economy was gearing up: wages were rising and the idea of family motoring was taking off. The Mitsubishi 500, a mass-market saloon, fulfilled this need; followed, in 1962, by a four-seater micro-compact with a two-stroke air-cooled 359cc engine, the Minica - a name which still lives today. The first Colt -a larger, more comfortable family car, not a predecessor of the modern Colt - was also introduced in the same year, and the first Galant in 1969. This was a genuine pacesetter in the Japanese market, representing the best and latest in automotive technology and was to sire a long and illustrious line with a string of motorsports honours and consumer awards to its name.
With similar growth in its commercial vehicle production it was decided that the company should create a single operation to focus on the automotive industry and, in 1970, the Mitsubishi Motors Corporation was formed.
The 1970's saw the beginning of Mitsubishi Motors considerable international rallying success with Galants and Lancers, demonstrating the qualities of performance and reliability for which they are known today.
By the end of the decade Mitsubishi vehicles were picking up honours both at home and abroad, including South Africa's 1977 "Car of the Year" (the Galant) and 1979 "USA's Pick-up of the Year" (the L200). But this was just the start. In 1982 the Pajero (called Shogun or Montero in other parts of the world) was launched, a 4x4 which was quite different from anything that had been seen before.
Quite incredibly, just a few months later in the Paris-Daker rally, it took honours in the Production Class and the Marathon Class, as well as the Best Team award. Two years later it won outright and a legend was born; the Pajero became a global best-seller, winning "4x4 of the Year" awards in France, Australia, Britain, Spain and West Germany. And it was not alone on the honours list - Galants, Colts, Lancers and L200s were all being honoured worldwide.
As part of a global expansion programme to capitalise on this success, in 1984 Mitsubishi Motors vehicles reached Irish shores with the established of MMC Commercials, an Irish owned company that is part of Frank Holdings, as the importer and distributor of Mitsubishi Motors cars, light commercials and trucks.
Throughout the 1990s the Pajero continued to dominate rally events like the Dakar, and Mitsubishi Motors vehicles also began to make their mark on the World Rally Championships. By the end of the century Tommi Makenin in a Lancer had won the Championship an historic four consecutive times whilst Lancers totally dominated the Group N Championships - for vehicles which are basically showroom standard. Overseas production expansion was attained with the first Carisma rolling off the line at Nedcar, Holland in 1995 - a joint venture between MMC, Volvo and the Dutch government - as well as the opening of production lines in Australia and Thailand.
Technologically this decade saw incredible advances. In 1990 MMC introduced the world's first Traction Control System, followed by Super Select 4WD and Multi-mode ABS in 1991 and INVECS in 1992. Commercial production of the Libero electric car began in 1994 whilst 1996 saw the development of the GDI engine.
Since registering its first vehicle, a Colt in 1984, Mitsubishi Motors has gone on to sell over 100,000 vehicles across Ireland. January 2008 has proved to be a huge success for Mitsubishi Motors Ireland since the launch of the all-new Lancer in November 2007.
With a strong and growing model line-up that will continue to grow in 2008 with the arrival of the Lancer Diesel, the new Lancer Evolution, and the brand new Lancer Sportback, the future for Mitsubishi Motors Ireland looks extremely bright.