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Small series manufacturer Mitsuoka: Visiting Mitsuoka in Japan

Small series manufacturer Mitsuoka
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U t to understand the tradition of Japan, a visit to sushi is enough -Restaurant around the corner nowhere near enough. So at this point only one aspect: For a long time there was no place for individuality in the culture of the country - which also applied to mobility. Anyone who thinks that all Japanese drivers who are authorized to drive a Toyota Prius are wrong. In order to break out of the domestic car monotony, expensive imported vehicles are often the only option - or a Mitsuoka automobile, for example the Viewt.

Mitsuoka offers an independent look on a tried and tested basis

Based on the Nissan Micra, Mitsuoka is handcrafting a kind of bonsai Jaguar Mk. II, which, at 2.3 million yen (around 20,000 euros), is hardly more expensive than a well-equipped Toyota Corolla. The Mitsuoka family business based in Toyama, around 330 kilometers northeast of Tokyo, uses a similar pattern to knit the Infiniti M35 or the Honda Accord. After the operation, their names are Galue and Nouera and they resemble Bentley's heavy vehicles. The front and rear areas are cut off and replaced with new parts made of FRP (Fiber-Reinforced Plastic) material. In order to be able to use the trunk of the Mitsuoka Viewt in a practical way, an iron plate is welded to the original C-pillar, which increases the payload. In the best of marketing poetry, it says: 'Every specialist dedicates himself to their work quietly and proudly' - which sounds typically Japanese for Europeans.

From the small car to the Mitsuoka replica

Was from such interventions Company founder Susumu Mitsuoka far away when he started trading cars in 1968. At that time, however, he already harbored the desire to manufacture cars himself. In Japan, this requires a formal permit, which is difficult to obtain - Mitsuoka succeeded. The trick: Initially, the Mitsuoka range was limited to small cars that did not go faster than 30 km /h and could therefore be driven without a driver's license. On a trip to Europe, the company founder drove a micro car in front of the camera lens, which served as a model for the Bubu introduced in 1982 - and which helped the company achieve its breakthrough.

Driven by a 50 cubic centimeter engine, the two-seater made retirees mobile, especially in rural regions with inadequate local transport infrastructure. But after the driver's license system was changed in 1985 and one was also used to drive such a micro carNeeded a driver's license, sales of the Mitsuoka Bubu collapsed. So the Japanese switched to building replicas, including the Porsche 356 and Mercedes SSK. Since the basic cars have already received all the formalities for the sale in this so-called conversion business, it was not a major obstacle to obtain the registration permit for the conversions, so that Mitsuoka could regularly sell such models.

Over time, however, it became quite difficult to find basic vehicles like the VW Beetle on the island. The consequence: the Le Seyde, a vehicle with its own design and the technology of the Nissan Silvia. Two years later the Mitsuoka Viewt followed, of which over 3,000 copies have since been sold. The hearse business, which now accounts for a third of sales, was established as a second pillar.

Mitsuoka's first in-house development

This success enabled Mitsuoka to develop his own car - the Zero 1. It was important to him to build a simple car. Mitsuoka therefore opted for a simple design in which the wheels are mounted free-standing like on a Super Seven. Another donor - the Mazda MX-5 - was used for the drive. 'But the remaining parts all came from us,' says Mitsuoka. With this, the company received a license from the Japanese Ministry of Transport to manufacture and sell automobiles - as the tenth vehicle manufacturer. 'At the time, I thought Japan was an extremely bureaucratic country with no flexibility whatsoever. But it's not that bad,' the company boss notes in retrospect.

It wasn't made easy for the company either. The bizarre vehicles were only allowed to be exhibited at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2003, as the major car companies had previously resisted. A super sports car should dispel doubts that one could get lost among the established ones in the industry. And so the Mitsuoka Orochi - Japanese for giant snake - crept onto the first exhibition stand of the small series manufacturer. Designer Taka-nori Aoki's idea: to design a car that 'looks sexy and scary at the same time'. There was no plan to build the two-seater in series, especially since the show car is just a shell that arches over an MX-5 chassis.

E-car from Mitsuoka

There are now 90 copies in customer hands, powered by a Toyota V6 that develops 233 hp from a 3.3 liter displacement. Due to some inquiries from Europe and the USA, a left-hand drive variant has now been added to the range. It is still unclear whether the open version of the 4.56 meter long Mitsuoka flounder will go into series production. Completely clear, however: Susumu Mitsuoka's dream of owning a car came true.

Son Akio has been running the business since 2001 and is preparing for the future. The Lite electric car based on the Mitsubishi i-MiEV will shortly be launchedto the dealers, a second production facility in Thailand will start operations in 2011. Nevertheless, the company founder speaks of a 'small country company' - with a tradition going back 42 years.


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