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Japanese for "three diamonds".
Filed under:  Companies
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Mitsubishi built its first car in 1917. The company itself goes back to 1870, when it built its first ships - the three diamonds represent a ship's propellers.

(Text from CAR Magazine, July 1999. Written by Martin Buckley.)

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Mitsubishi had been engaged in a long-term venture with Chrysler (now DaimlerChrysler), assembling a series of cars and trucks for Chrysler brands since the 1970s. Some Chrysler cars use Mitsubishi componentry, but have been gravitating toward more use of Mercedes-Benz componentry, which is considered superior. DaimlerChrysler recently announced that it was withdrawing all financial support and sold it's shares in MMC. However, Mitsubishi will still be able to build the Dakota-based Raider and Chrysler will still use a Mitsubishi-based chassis for it's Stratus/Sebring replacements.

For many years, Mitsubishi did not sell in North America under its own brand. That began changing in the United States in 1982. Many of Mitsubishi's early exports bore Chrysler brands such as Chrysler Valiant (in Australia), Dodge and Plymouth. In some countries, Colt was used as the marque. In the late 1980s, the Eagle brand was used for some Mitsubishi products in the US.

Mitsubishi has also exported car platform designs and manufacturing know-how to Hyundai in South Korea and Proton in Malaysia.

Financial troubles.
Mitsubishi has recently fallen on hard economic times. With the exception of the Lancer Evolution rally homologation car and Endeavor SUV, sales have dropped drastically, especially in the critical US 18?35 youth market the company once had a hold of. Ironically, the US youth market aided in the company's economic misfortunes because young buyers would default on their car loans, especially on expensive sports cars like the Eclipse and GTO.

Mitsubishi Motor's parent company is dealing with multiple controversies over unfair business practices, the quality of its products, and the mistreatment of employees (for more details, see Mitsubishi article). Mitsubishi is also facing accusations of actively searching for the names of drivers who race their Lancer Evolutions in order to void their warranties (car companies usually void warranties if they find out the customer has raced the vehicle, legitimately or not). DaimlerChrysler has refused to buy more Mitsubishi stock than it already has, and the company is scrambling to develop more cars to both retake the youth market and compete in the mainstream market against companies such as Toyota and Honda.

Mitsubishi's sales in the important US market dropped more than 45 per cent between 2003 and 2004, and the company has fallen behind Mazda in terms of total US sales. However, the company showed marginal year-on-year improvement as of June 2005, indicating that the company's slump may be bottoming out, or even a possible return to form.

In June, 2004, Mitsubishi Motors admitted it had systematically covered up auto defects for 25 years. Among the 30 defects, 4 had publicized in 2000. By that time, the company had $9 billion debt, with $1.9 billion loss in for the fiscal year ended March 31. The announcement followed by massive recalls of over half a million vehicle. At the end of the 3rd qurater, the half year result between April to Sept 2004 showed the company suffered net loss of over 146 billion yen during the period.

In July, 2004, Mitsubishi announced that it would immediately cancel the slow-selling Diamante, Lancer Sportback station wagon, Montero Sport, and (in 2005) the Montero in the US market, and would scale back purchase projections for the Mitsubishi/Hyundai/Chrysler Global Engine Manufacturing Alliance engines. In August, 2004, Mitsubishi announced that it would not continue with a plan to have DaimlerChrysler produce a minivan for it. It will, however, get a version of the Dodge Dakota pickup truck, and will continue work with DC on future small cars. Mitsubishi has also been active in OEM production of cars for Nissan, and has just (July 2005) announced a partnership with PSA Peugeot Citro?n to manufacture an SUV.

In other countries, MMC's product launches have been absymal. Although a new Lancer (Lancer Cedia) was available in Japan and the US from around 2000, it failed to introduce this model in many other nations until 2004. Until then, MMC's Thai plant was still producing its predecessor for both domestic and export markets. Similarly, the launch of a new Galant, sold in the US from 2003, was staged over years rather than months, and as of mid-2005 it still has not replaced the mid-1990s model in many nations.

Despite this trend is Mitsubishi has seen remarkable growth in Russia. While Russia is still a developing market, Mitsubishi's sales there have already exceeded previous-year sales, and 2005 sales are expected to increase over 70%. With the introduction of a newer Lancer that figure may increase.

Currently, Phoenix Capital has announced intentions to purchase a larger percent of Mitsubishi stock and turn the company into an exclusive manufacturer of sports cars and trucks/SUVs. At this point however, this plan has not been put into action.

In January 2005, there were rumours that Mitsubishi might withdraw from the United States. These rumors proved unfounded, as evidenced by the debut of a fourth-generation Eclipse. The car has been well-received in the press and by the public, but its staying power and implications for the company as a whole remain to be seen.

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