Origin of Mitsubishi Motors

February 6th, 2018 by

Miami Lakes Mitsubishi Origin Feature

Did you know Mitsubishi Motors wasn’t always an automotive company? Surprisingly enough, Mitsubishi Motors didn’t even start as “Mitsubishi Motors.” When it started, the name was just “Mitsubishi” and it was the name of a shipping company made of three chartered steamships. It was the first company in Japan to open an overseas route and soon became a naval shipbuilding company that expanded beyond the island of Japan. Dating all the way back to 1870, the name “Mitsubishi” has been known for 140 years. Mitsubishi Motors, the automotive company, has been known for 100 years, and other factions, like Mitsubishi Electric, are non-advertised branches of the Mitsubishi company tree.

The Beginning

Although the Mitsubishi shipping company started in 1870, under the name of Tsukumo Shokai, it later turned into a shipbuilding company in 1884 by purchasing a shipbuilding yard from the government. By this time, Mitsubishi was already diversifying, with the owner’s successor buying up mines for resources and expanding the business into banking, insurance, and warehousing. Those last three may not be around anymore, but as the company grew, its named changed several times, landing on the “Mitsubishi Mail Steamship Company”. Later in 1916, Mitsubishi expanded into another category under the name of Mitsubishi Heavy, the first branch of Mitsubishi to develop automobiles, aircraft, tanks, and buses.

In 1946, the Mitsubishi Headquarters disbanded. All that was left were the multiple, now independent enterprises, the branches we know today – Mitsubishi Motors, Mitsubishi Electric, and Mitsubishi Heavy. Other companies, such as Nikon and Kirin Ichiban, got rid of the Mitsubishi name and the logo, severing all ties with the original company. Without a little research, no one would even know the two were Mitsubishi brands. Even without the name, for whatever reason, the logo itself could be some form of representation, but due to occupational forces, the name and emblem disappeared.

The Mitsubishi Emblem

It’s all about appearances, so we can understand why some companies may choose to get rid of their own brand mark and trade in for something new. However, it’s interesting to see how the Mitsubishi Logo evolved, starting with its first conception as the crest on the flags of ships used by the original shipping company. It looked a little something like this:

When we think of pirate movies, soldiers can spot a pirate ship not by the shape or build of the ship itself, but by the black flag it would sport. A dumb idea if you ask us. Wouldn’t a pirate ship wish to sail incognito, able to get the jump on other ships and land they wished to pillage? Maybe that’s just Hollywood mojo, but just like pirate ships, many other ships had a flag of some sort that would let others know what business they belonged to as they traveled overseas.

The first logo of Mitsubishi was designed as a combination of two family crests – the three-layered water chestnut “Sanga-bishi” from the Iwasaki Family (the original founder) and three oak leaves “Mitsu-gashiwa” from Iwasaki’s first employer, a man of the Yamauchi Family. Both men were a part of the powerful Tosa Clan, found in the prefecture of Kochi on the island of Shikoku. One could say the two were brothers in arms and including the Mitsu-gashiwa was a way of showing respect to Iwasaki’s roots.

This combination of imagery took the form of a ship’s propeller head, keeping the shape of three objects meeting in the middle, but was also sharp and refined. This logo lasted until 1964 when the remaining factions of Mitsubishi decided to build a new corporate image that would make them easily recognizable amongst their customers. Beefing it up, the three diamonds of the logo seen above were turned into rhombi. The three still met in the center, but the overall shape changed from that of a propeller head to more like a pyramid, with two rhombi on their side building a foundation that held the third rhombi in place and pointing upward.

The three rhombi stood for the values of Mitsubishi – integrity, success, and reliability. Given the real names of the family crests, it may be obvious that the name “Mitsubishi” took parts from each “Mitsu”, meaning three, and “Bishi”, meaning chestnut, to create the name it has today. Funny how that happens.

* Now you know the origins of the Mitsubishi automotive company, along with its other branches still operating today, whether under the Mitsubishi name or not. Looking for your own reliable vehicle? Mitsubishi Motors has one of the longest-lasting car warranties on the market, and you can find your own Mitsubishi model in our inventory. *

* Photo Source/Copyright: University Mitsubishi *

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