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The History of the Mitsubishi Symbol and the Mitsubishi Brand

Courtesy of Fort Myers Mitsubishi

You know it as the three red diamonds that make up the Mitsubishi logo. Most people associate this logo with the quality and reliability of the car that bears it. But, do you know the history behind the logo? You can trace the Mitsubishi three-diamond symbol back to 1874. Over the years, the company has evolved, progressing forward on every aspect of business with innovative, forward-thinking designs and a well-earned reputation for performance.

Let’s look at how the symbol came to be, what it meant to the Mitsubishi founding fathers, and what it still means today.

The Origin of the Three-Diamond Mitsubishi Symbol

Close-Up of Three-Diamond Mitsubishi Symbol Printed on Red Vehicle
Image via Flickr by viZZZual.com

In 1870, a young Japanese man named Yataro Iwasaki launched the first Mitsubishi company under the name Tsukumo Shokai. Before this, Yataro worked for the powerful Tosa Clan, distinguishing himself while managing the clan’s Osaka trading operations. Tsukumo Shokai was a shipping company Yataro set up using three steamships he chartered from the Tosa clan, and evidence of his strong connection with the clan ties closely to the symbol.

Yataro used a triangular water chestnut icon on his ships’ flags. The Mitsubishi three-diamond icon came about a few years later, derived from a combination of Yataro’s three-layer chestnut family crest and the three-leaved oak family crest of the Yamanouchi family, a prominent member of the Tosa clan. Tsukumo Shokai used the Mitsubishi logo before the name Mitsubishi was adopted.

In 1872, the company changed its name to Mitsukawa Shokai. However, it wasn’t until another name change in 1874 that the name Mitsubishi made its appearance in the now Mitsubishi Shokai shipping company. Yataro’s public display of patriotism at this time helped grow the company. In 1874, he provided ships to carry Japanese soldiers to Taiwan, earning him the government’s gratitude, which gave him 30 vessels. Every vessel proudly flew the Mitsubishi flag.

Yataro changed his company name once more in 1875 after inheriting the employees and facilities of a disbanded government mail service. Now, the company was known as Mitsubishi Mail Steamship.

The Meaning of Mitsubishi

The name Mitsubishi means three diamonds. The word derives from two Japanese words, mitsu and hishi. Mitsu means three, while the word hishi translates to water chestnut. For centuries, the Japanese used the word to denote the diamond shape.

So why don’t they call the company Mitsuhishi? Well, the name derives from the pronunciation of the word. The Japanese bend the “h” sound to a “b” when used in the middle of a word. Hence, they say the two words together as Mitsubishi, and so named the company.

Mitsubishi Diversifies

Under Yataro’s leadership, the company expanded its shipping to Russia and China and enjoyed a virtual monopoly on the seas. The government sponsored a competitor company to break up this monopoly that nearly put both companies out of business. In 1885, Yataro died and was succeeded by his brother Yanosuke. To end the fierce competition, the government mandated the companies merge into what we know today as the Nippon Yusen line.

While the company business fought for survival on the seas, on land, it diversified. Before his death, Yataro purchased coal and copper mines and built the Nagasaki Ship Building Yard. It was here that Japan produced its first steel steamship.

In 1893, Yataro’s son Hisaya assumed the Presidency and began restructuring the company to support emerging investments in paper, glass, and even beer. However, it wasn’t until Yanosuke’s son Koyata succeeded Hisaya as President in 1916 when he formed Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. And, it was here that the company first began building automobiles. In 1917, Mitsubishi introduced the first mass-produced car in Japanese history, the Model-A.

The History of Mitsubishi Motors

Over the next 100 years, Mitsubishi Motors developed many new technologies, including the first mass-produced electric vehicle in 1970. The company developed patents for silent shaft technology and licensed them to Porsche, Saab, and Fiat in 1976.

In 1982, Mitsubishi Motors began selling cars in America under the auspicious three-diamond emblem. The Tredia, Cordia, and Starion were the first models. In 1986, the Mitsubishi Galant VR-4 used the world’s first electronically controlled suspension system to win Japanese Car of the Year and Motor Trend’s Import Car of the Year.

Mitsubishi Motors continued to innovate, introducing the world’s first electronically controlled traction control system in 1990. As a result, governments worldwide, including the United States, adopted this groundbreaking technology as a mandatory safety feature. At the same time, the Mitsubishi 300GT and Eclipse were dominating the U.S. market, earning accolades and a strong following.

In 1992, Mitsubishi Motors developed the INVEC system, a shift control that adapts to a person’s driving habits. This won Technology of the Year for Mitsubishi Motors, further cementing their legacy as an industry innovator. In that same year, they produced the MIVEC engine that maintains engine performance while maximizing fuel efficiency.

With an eye toward greener emissions, Mitsubishi introduced the first gasoline direct injection system in 1996. In 2003, the Lancer Evolution with all-wheel-control won the Automobile of the Year from Automobile magazine. Furthermore, it would win Japan’s Automobile of the Year award in 2007 with its most advanced Super All-Wheel Control system.

In 2008, the company proudly unveiled its [email protected] pledge to create environmentally friendly vehicles using EV, PHEV, and other emissions-reducing technologies to preserve and sustain the global environment.

The i-MiEV launched in 2010 as their first electric vehicle and followed that up with the plug-in hybrid PX-MiEV SUV. Over the next ten years, Mitsubishi Motors would develop the Outlander PHEV and reintroduce the popular Eclipse, winning awards and a loyal customer base. Next up, Mitsubishi plans to introduce the eX SUV, an all-electric vehicle with a class-leading range, automated driving capability, and modern styling.

At Fort Myers Mitsubishi, we are proud to be a part of such a storied history filled with a rich tradition. To us, the three-diamond emblem means family. It also stands for our commitment to continuously innovate and push the boundaries of what is possible while protecting our environment.

If you’re interested in elevating your Fort Myers commute with one of the world’s finest automobiles, we invite you to browse our inventory online. Then, for a more personalized demonstration, you can stop by our dealership on Colonial Boulevard. One of our friendly, professionals staff will show you the latest Mitsubishi models and let you take your favorite for a test drive.

Fort Myers Mitsubishi 26.596091, -81.865185.