Mitsubishi Motors Corporation is a multinational automaker headquartered in Minato, Tokyo. In 2009 it was the sixth-largest Japan-based automaker and the 17th-largest in the world measured by production. It is part of the Mitsubishi keiretsu, formerly the biggest industrial group in Japan, and was formed in 1970 from the automotive division of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
Mitsubishi's automotive origins date back as far as 1917, when the Mitsubishi Shipbuilding Co., Ltd. introduced the Model A, Japan's first series-production automobile. An entirely hand-built seven-seater sedan based on the Fiat Tipo 3, it proved expensive compared to its American and European mass-produced rivals, and was discontinued in 1921 after only 22 had been built.
In 1934, Mitsubishi Shipbuilding was merged with the Mitsubishi Aircraft Co., a company established in 1920 to manufacture aircraft engines and other parts. The unified company was known as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), and was the largest private company in Japan. MHI concentrated on manufacturing aircraft, ships, railroad cars and machinery, but in 1937 developed the PX33, a prototype sedan for military use. It was the first Japanese-built passenger car with full-time four-wheel drive, a technology the company would return to almost fifty years later in its quest for motorsport and sales success.
The logo of three red diamonds, shared with over forty other companies within the keiretsu, predates Mitsubishi Motors itself by almost a century. It was chosen by Iwasaki Yataro, the founder of Mitsubishi, as it was suggestive of the emblem of the Tosa Clan who first employed him, and because his own family crest was three rhombuses stacked atop each other. The name Mitsubishi is a portmanteau of mitsu ("three") and hishi (literally, "water chestnut", often used in Japanese to denote a diamond or rhombus).