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Mitsubishi and Subaru – the race of ‘rich children’

The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution or the better Subaru WRX was the subject of constant controversy throughout the 90s and 2000s.

Fans of each line of course always think that their car is number one. But if you are racing and neutral, the best option, if possible, is to have both.


Nearly a century before the Japanese auto industry was in its infancy, Mitsubishi fighter jets roared in the sky and their battleships roamed the oceans. They became the attacking force of the Japanese army during World War II. Mitsubishi’s comrades in the sky at that time were none other than his compatriot – Nakajima Aircraft Company founded in 1918, one of the leading aircraft manufacturers serving the Government.

In 1950, the anti-Zaibatsu law (which was too large to promote Japan before but no longer suitable for the post-war era because of its monopoly and control of the economy) caused Nakajima to split into 12 companies. subsidiary. Five of these later formed Fuji Heavy Industries – the parent company of Subaru later.

Like Nakajima, Mitsubishi was forced to split into smaller companies, but they are still giants in each field, including key members: Mitsubishi UFJ Bank, Mitsubishi Corporation and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries among others. In 1970, the automotive division was split off from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), officially named Mitsubishi Motors (MMC), operating as an independent car company. Today MHI holds only about 10.7% stake in MMC.

The first car

Mitsubishi Model A. Photo: Mitsubishi

Mitsubishi was founded in 1870 by Iwasaki Yataro – a radical industrialist and financier of the Meiji period. By the early 20th century, it had become one of the four Zaibatsu greats that govern the entire economy and defense of Japan along with Mitsui, Sumitomo and Yasuda. The group’s activities range from shipbuilding, aircraft manufacturing, chemicals, iron and steel, fuel to financial services and banking. In 1917, the Mitsubishi Ship Company introduced the Mitsubishi Model A. Considered as Japan’s first mass-assembled car, the Model A quickly stopped production after only 22 units because of the high cost. too expensive compared to American and European cars of the time.

After World War II, the whole of Japan rose from the ashes. Kenji Kita, then the CEO of Fuji Heavy Industries, wanted the newly restructured company to enter the auto industry as quickly as possible. The automobile branch was officially born in 1953, Kita chose a name that he always cherished: Subaru – the six brightest star cluster in the constellation Taurus. The 1954 Subaru 1500 was the first model, but only 20 were produced due to a lack of parts during that difficult period.

Acceleration to glory

In the 42-year history of the most fierce race on the planet Dakar Rally, there are still two records in car racing: 12 times and 7 times in a row. Both records belong to Mitsubishi and the Pajero Evolution model (developed on the basis of the Pajero SUV since 1982). Contributing to that unprecedented success in addition to legendary drivers also has the help of technical technology.

Subaru 1500. Photo: Response

Subaru 1500. Photo: Response

Originating from the production of off-road vehicles under contract for the Japanese government during the war, Mitsubishi understood well how to create an SUV that would help it survive and win in the desert. Pajero is the first Japanese model that allows the driver to switch from single-wheel drive to active 2-wheel drive at speeds up to 80 km/h without the driver needing to stop. Together with the differential locks, the system allows the 4WD vehicle to behave like a true AWD SUV. This technology is the Super Select 4WD adopted by the automaker from the 2nd generation Pajero. The brilliant heritage at the Dakar Rally has been strongly fueled and brought the Pajero name to great commercial success in the two decades since the last two decades. 1990.

Subaru did not participate in the Dakar Rally like Mitsubishi, but since 1965, the country has established itself as a sports player when it introduced the Subaru 1000, marking a milestone for the arrival of the Boxer engine that was equipped for most all models over 1,500 cc of this company.

Historically, both Mitsubishi and Subaru embarked on a quest to build a high-performance car at an affordable price in 1992 to satisfy a single goal: to win. So Lancer Evolution (commonly known as Evo) and WRX were born. Since then, the epic battle between the two forces began, from illegal races on the streets of Asia to the most prestigious race in the World Rally Championship (WRC).

During a decade of competition at WRC, Evo won 4 times, the number for WRX is 3. But it is not fair to take 4-3 to say that Evo is better than WRX. In this confrontation, the most interesting thing is not the winning or losing. Jeremy Clarkson – host of Top Gear magazine in the competition between these two models 7 years ago commented: “both are sophisticated, both are from Japan, both are 4-seaters, both are turbocharged, both with all-wheel drive, both born in the world to race, both 0-100 km/h in under 5 seconds and both soaring to a top speed of 250 km/h.”

Is that enough to convince the driver not to have to wonder about Evo or WRX?

Towards the future

Lancer Evo and WRX 2015. Photo: Motor Trend/Robin Trajano

Lancer Evo and WRX 2015. Photo: Motor Trend/Robin Trajano

Competition and changing global consumer habits make it difficult for Mitsubishi to find the very models that make their name in the races. Both Pajero and Lancer respectively fell out of favor with new tastes, where performance and durability gave way to technology and design. Of course, there is still a loyal customer base, but the modest number is not enough to help such products continue to be commercially successful. Just like the Land Cruiser had to stop selling in the US market, the last Pajero model ended its life in 2021.

The descendant of the once “desert king” is still a mystery in the future. At least for now, customers can still choose the mid-size SUV Pajero Sport with a bit of the spirit of the elder. With the wave of electrification, which many people didn’t even know in 2010, the i-MiEV was the first mass-produced electric vehicle capable of driving on the highway. Only regret that Mitsubishi was unable to seize the opportunity of the pioneer.

After many low notes over the past decade, the Japanese automaker has gradually restructured to focus on high-rise models that are more urban-friendly such as Outlander or Eclip Cross. The once boring design of Mitsubishi cars gradually changed with the start of the new generation Outlander just launched. In the electric car revolution, Airtrek is currently the only representative of the 3-diamond car company that is about to be introduced in China.

Luckier than rival Lancer Evolution, WRX is still maintained by Subaru to this day. Sports spirit in the bloodline of the Japanese automaker has never faded. With the same specialties from the Boxer engine and the famous Symmetrical AWD powertrain, Subaru develops a product range based on its operating strengths. Along with Porsche, Subaru is a rare car company that also offers a Boxer engine in cars. However, the design of Subaru cars rarely pleases the majority of customers, especially in Asia. From 2017, the parent company Fuji Heavy Industries officially changed its name to Subaru Corporation in an effort to further promote Subaru’s image to global customers.

Thai Hoang


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