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Classic Cars

Mitsubishi Celebrates Start of 40th Anniversary in Europe

It hopes to return to profitability in Europe in March 2014

 
 
Slideshow
Mitsubishi has been building cars for nearly a century, but it is still relatively young in US and Europe

MitsubishiMitsubishiMitsubishiJapan, 1917 > present72 models
1313 photos
5 videos
might be one of the saddest automakers still on sale. It feels like a dead company walking with old products that do not compete with the market leaders, but Mitsubishi is celebrating the start of its 40th anniversary in Europe when its first car to go on sale in Europe was shown at the London Motor Show in October 1974.

Mitsubishi as a company started in 1870 has a shipping company and eventually broadened into shipbuilding and 25 loosely affiliated businesses today. Mitsubishi Shipbuilding built the company’s first car in 1917, a copy of the Fiat Tipo 33 TERFiat 3 TERItaly, 1912 > present3 photos
. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries built all of Mitsubishi’s cars until 1970 when the company was spun off into Mitsubishi Motors.

ChryslerChryslerChryslerUnited States of America, 1925 > present70 models
875 photos
1 video
bought 15% of Mitsubishi Motors in February 1970 and began selling the company’s cars in the United States rebadged as DodgeDodgeDodgeUnited States of America, 1914 > present59 models
1026 photos
6 videos
and PlymouthPlymouthPlymouthUnited States of America, 1928 > 200119 models
128 photos
models.

A handful of Mitsubishi vehicles were imported into Spain and Greece before 1970, but official imports began in May 1971 in the US. Mitsubishi struggled to build a dealer network and only 4,861 of its cars were sold in Europe from 1971 to 1975.

Chrysler put its weight behind Mitsubishi in Europe in 1974 to help develop the company and started with the LancerMitsubishi Lancer Gen.1Japan, 1973 > 19796 versions
and GalantMitsubishi Galant Gen.1Japan, 1969 > 19733 versions
.

Mitsubishi has also had a lot of success in rallying

Mitsubishi has also had a lot of success in rallying

© photo courtesy of: Mitsubishi

From there, Mitsubishi expanded to more European markets, including Germany in 1977 and France in 1978.

Last year, Mitsubishi sold 92,441 cars in 34 European countries. Its sales leader is Germany with 22,138 cars sold, the UK with 12,349 cars and Norway with 5,697 cars.

It sold 80,000 cars in Russia, but Mitsubishi spun off a separate business for the Russian market in 2007, and it does not consider it part of Europe.

Being small has not kept Mitsubishi from developing new technology. It had direct injected engines on sale in 1995 and introduced the i-MiEVi-MiEVMitsubishi i-MiEVJapan, 2009 > present3 photos
electric car in 2010. It won the Dakar rally 12 times with the PajeroPajero Gen.3Mitsubishi Pajero Gen.3Japan, 1999 > 20068 versions
5 photos
and took four Driver’s and one Manufacturer’s Championships in the WRC. The Lancer carved out a place as a rally icon by winning its first European rally at the 1,000 Lakes Rally in 1977 and taking the four WRC championships.

Europe did not get its own, unique Mitsubishi model until the CarismaMitsubishi CarismaJapan, 1995 > 20042 versions
in 1995 with a platform shared with VolvoVolvoVolvoSweden, 1927 > present49 models
4537 photos
6 videos
, and the Europe-only ColtColt Gen.7Mitsubishi Colt Gen.7Japan, 2002 > present65 versions
103 photos
2 videos
came in 2004. In 2005, it started a partnership with PSA PeugeotPeugeotPeugeotFrance, 1882 > present120 models
4047 photos
7 videos
CitroënCitroënCitroënFrance, 1919 > present94 models
5546 photos
11 videos
to co-develop cars.

While the company has certainly struggled in the 2000s, it claims that it will regain profitability in the fiscal year 2013, which ends in March 2014. Mitsubishi admits that European is its toughest global market, and its current downturn makes it even harder. However, it believes that it can carve out a niche as an automaker in Europe that is outside the mainstream.

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