Mitsubishi Motors: a century of engineering legacy
This might be unfamiliar to many, but Mitsubishi was the first Japanese company to produce a mass-production car. From shipbuilding to aviation to cars, Mitsubishi’s automotive story began in 1917 when Mitsubishi Shipbuilding Co., LTD introduced its very first car, the Mitsubishi Model A. It was primarily designed to be a luxury vehicle for government officials. The Model A also became the first mass-production car in Japan. This year marks the 100th year of Mitsubishi in Japanese automotive history.
Locally, Mitsubishi has just made another milestone history with the introduction of its first batch of Mirage units produced by its new Sta. Rosa plant under the CARS program of the government, sustaining its 5-decade-old legacy of being one of the biggest employers in the automotive industry. Under the Comprehensive Automotive Resurgence Strategy (CARS) program or Executive Order No. 182, huge financial incentives are awarded on the condition that production outputs must reach 200,000 units over a six-year period.
Before we take a look at the Mirage’s heritage lineup, it is interesting to take a look at the brand’s rich and colorful racing history. Last year, Mitsubishi Motors Philippines invited several members of the media for a plant tour that involved a visit to historic Mitsubishi Auto Gallery Museum in Okazaki, Japan. Just a couple of hours from Tokyo by the Shinkansen bullet train, it is a must-see for motorsports history buffs and car aficionados.
A rich motorsports history
In 1962 at the Macau Grand Prix, this was a pivotal year for Mitsubishi Motors, where it made a huge mark with its first foray into an international motorsports event and setting a track record with the Mitsubishi 500 Super Deluxe. It was also the first vehicle to be aerodynamically tested in a wind tunnel in Japan.
In 1970, the new Galant GTO was bred from the five-time Grand Prix-winning Colt F Series, and was launched in Japan that will eventually lead to the iconic Lancer Evolution. The following year Mitsubishi Motors sold its first car in America, rebadged as the Dodge Colt. The Colt nameplate continues its winning streak, with the Colt F2000 Formula racecar, engineered with Mitsubishi’s aerospace technology, won its sixth Grand Prix title. The Lancer 1600GSR made its debut in 1973, dominating the Australian Southern Cross Rally with a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place sweep, garnering Mitsubishi Motors’ fourth Rally title overall.
The 1970s was a turbulent time for the global economy. The two major oil crises signaled the end of the gas-guzzlers and American muscle cars. The more fuel-efficient compact cars were starting to gain wider acceptance. The Mirage was introduced from 1978 to 2003 and was reintroduced again in 2012 spanning six generations up to the present.
The earlier generation models were hatchback models and while only the first-generation Mirage was introduced in the Philippine market, subsequent models were marketed under different nameplates depending on the territory.
The Mirage nameplate has a rather complicated branding and marketing history, with badges using Lancer and Dodge Colt in various markets. During the short-lived Daimler/Chrysler-Mitsubishi alliance, it was also badged under Plymouth as the Champ. By 2012, Mitsubishi the Mirage nameplate was internationally resurrected as a sixth-generation model.