Part 5: The History of Mitsubishi; About the Mitsubishi EclipseThe History of Mitsubishi
The Mitsubishi Group is a Japanese multinational conglomerate that uses the Mitsubishi name in a variety of products. Cars are only one thing Mitsubishi produces, as it also focuses on machinery, financial services, and real estate, to name but a few of their products. Mitsubishi (translated loosely as "three diamonds", to reflect the logo) started as a shipping firm after the Meiji Restoration in 1870, eventually expanding into other sectors. What this history focuses on is Mitsubishi Motors, the auto manufacturing arm of the corporation.
Mitsubishi Motors itself had its origins in 1917 after Mitsubishi Shipbuilding Co., Ltd. introduced the Model A, Japan's first series-production automobile. It was expensive, though, and discontinued after only 22 of them had been built. After the Second World War the newly merged Mitsubishi shipbuilding and aircraft companies, now named Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, resumed working in cars rather than machinery and war vehicles, but the Allied powers ordered the zaitbatsu (Japan's family-controlled industrial conglomerates) to be dismantled in 1950. Mitsuisi Heavy Industries was split into three separate entities. After the 1960s, when Japan's economy was recovering, the mass market sedan Mistubishi 500 was introduced to meet consumer demand by one of the three split companies, and the three reassembled in 1964. Mitsubishi Motors was formed in 1970 as a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
Part of Mitsubishi Motors's expansion strategy was to forge alliances with foreign companies, and Chrysler was sold a 15 percent share in the new company. This introduced the Dodge Colt to the American market, even though the Colt was actually the "offspring" of the Mitsubishi Galant. The early success pushed Mitsubishi to expand faster, which eventually caused friction between them and Chrysler, which was now on the edge of bankruptcy. In 1982, the Mitsubishi brand was introduced for the first time, and went public in 1988. The relationship with Chrysler was close, if fraught with tension, and eventually Chrysler relinquished all of its controlling interest over Mitsubishi in 1993. In the 2000s, Mitsubishi Motors had many investors which eventually sold their own shares on the company, and in 2005 the company returned to Japanese ownership.
Despite Mitsubishi's strong presence in the west, it has been plagued with numerous problems recently, both economic and public-relations related. One of the biggest problems Mitsubishi faced was when they were trying to cover up defect problems in their vehicles in 2004, referred to as "one of the largest corporate scandals in Japanese history". A lot of cars were recalled and a lot of high-ranking Mitsubishi employees were arrested. At the start of the 2000 decade Mitsubishi tried offering a 0% down, 0% interest, $0 monthly payment finance offer to get a jolt in sales, but at the end of the year's "grace period" a lot of credit-risky buyers defaulted, leaving the company even deeper in the hole. Sales plummetted from 243,000 cars sold in 2003 to 119,000 in 2006! Despite an attempted revitalization plan, Mitsubishi have decided to withdraw production in Europe by the end of 2012 due to high operating losses and the Eurozone debt crisis.
About the Mitsubishi Eclipse
Like the Toyota Supra, the Mitsubishi Eclipse is another iconic and popular street racing sports car. And, also like the Supra, the Eclipse was also discontinued in 2011, although a special series for it was made in 2012 with the proceeds going to charity. The Eclipse had four generations, and the game shows the fourth generation of the Eclipse. The first two generations of the Eclipse shared parts with Chrysler's Eagle Talon and Plymouth Laser, but the later two generations were mostly independent.
The fourth generation Eclipses are the fastest of the lot with a 263 hp, 6V engine. Later Eclipses had facelifts regarding their appearance (the most shocking being the GT Spyder, which looks like almost like a bastardized Corvette) but all have kept the rounded front and back that gives the Eclipse its well-known look.
Triple A Says...
This car rides on the good (if a bit undeserved) reputation of the previous Eclipses and it is pretty much the Mustang II of Japan. It is a FIAT without the soul. I hate its tasteless styling as much as I hate its blandness. I would rather walk than drive this POS. It's priced fairly high for its quality, does not have 4-wheel drive, and it's underpowered for its "tuning power".