Auto Industry Timeline

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Japanese Auto Industry:

This timeline is meant to eventually cover the inception of the motor car in Japan up until 1970.


In addition to their brand name these cars have alternate meanings:

Isuzu: Any car produced in a joint venture between a number of companies after 19346

Datsun: Name for any economy car

The Stat Box

Page 288.

Number of Automobiles in Use at Year End





















According to the Research Bureau of the Cabinet7

Date---------------------------Total Registered Vehicles---Trucks---Passenger Cars---Cars for Special Purposes

December's End 1925------------30,215----------------------8,162----21,002-----------1,051

April's End 1930---------------90,116----------------------29,774---58,690-----------1,682

October's End 1935-------------134,859---------------------48,135---82,775-----------3,949


Production and Imports:

Date---------------------Cars Made in Japan----------Small Cars---Imports & Imported in parts and assembled in Japan---Imports









1937---------------------14,430/5,150 Cars/9,280 Trucks

Exports of Automobiles and Parts

Date---------------------Automobiles---Rubber tires and inner tubes (100 kin)---Parts and accessories





Rolling Stock and Vehicles (In thousands of yen)




  • Estimate

Production Rates Against 100 for Demand




Exports of Rolling Stock and Vehicles (In thousands of yen)



Automobile Parts---------13,823----16,660----17,752

For postwar statistics please vist the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association website.

The Economy:

Imports to Japan: As far as natural resources go Japan is a barren country. During it's period of imperialistic expansion it sought to amend this fact but after WW2 the country was forced to rely heavily on imports. All rubber was imported from South or Southeast Asia. Most wool, hemp, flax and jute are imported from Paskistan and India. Only 5% of petroleum is domestically produced. Iron ore is used to create one of Japan's major exports, steel. Local ore is of low quality so most of it is imported from India, about 8 million tons to support its industry. Malaya, Indonesia, Thailand and Burma supply Japan with tin. About 20% of food consumed also had to be imported. Information as of 1958.12

Industry: As of 1958 Japan was the most industrially country making 20% of its domestic product. Annually Japan produces 11.1 million metric tons of crude steel (66% for ECAFE region), 13M metrics tons of cement (50%), 47M metric tons of coal (49%), 72 billion kwh of electricity (70%). These are all lagging behind the countries within Western Europe and the United States. At this time the average income for a middle class citizen is about $50 compared to the $500 wage in the USA.12

WW2 Recovery: The mining and manufacturing industry grew at a 22% rate during the first ten years after the war as opposed to 9% before the war. Real national income improved at a rate of 11% compared to 3-5% prewar. In 1957, the Korean War started and japan saw a 58% rise in real national income, industrial activity rose by 158% and employment went up by 22%. Exports failed to reach prewar levels due to inflation, domestically profitable sales and production costs. Reasons for this growth were attributed to 1: the 6 billion dollar investment the USA made in Japan as well as the 4 billion dollars that was used to purchased supplies for the Korean War, 2: 77% increase in world trade between 1948 and 1957, 3: USA sponsership, 4: numurous economic reforms and admission into the General Agreement on Tarrifs and Trade, 5: the Korean War's stimulation on the economy, 6: sound monetary policy, 7: higher domestic consumption and 8: high rate of capital investment.12

A doubling of the growth rate from 2 to 4 percent from 1915 to the 1920s2

Decling from 1920s to 1930s due to the great depression2.

Preperations for WW2 brought Japan out of depression in the late 1930s2.

Post WW2 Japan suffered from many different shortages of material and inflation of more than 100% characterized the years 1946-482.

1949 reccesion resulted from the strict laws of the General Headquarters of Allied Powers proposed to fight postwar inflation2.

Orders from America during the 1950 Korean War brought Japan out of depression2

Between 1963 and 1970 output doubled2.

Afterwords growth rate fell to around 4% until the 1990s2.

General History:

1898: The Panhard et Lavassor, a French car is the first car to be imported to Japan3.

The growth of the automobile industry within Japan is was slow to begin with because of the arms race in the first decade of the twentieth century. The Japanese military, previously subcontracting much of their work, now shifted their efforts towards accruing arms. Upon the loss of these contracts private sector also lost the source of much of their machine tool experience. Companies had to seek out another market but it wasn't quick to be found8.

With the financial backing of Shintaro Yoshida bicycle technician Uchiyama Komanosuke took an American engine and mounted to a homemade chassis creating a not yet road worthy automobile. Their efforts didn't stop there for, in 1907, commissioned by Imperial Prince Takehito Arisugawa3, they created the Takuri Type 3, with an American imported6, 12 horsepower, two cylinder water cooled internal combustion engine mounted under the seat it was the first Japanese one of its kind. Its name comes from a shortened version of the Japanese onomatopoeia for rattle as the car was thought to do such3. Together its creators founded Tokyo Motor Vehicle Works, Yoshida becoming president. A little over a dozen takuris were made but the Japanese people didn't care. This combined with military pressure forced the company to change to truck production1. This was also the year Uchiyama invented the first Japanese gas-powered engine8.

Locomobile Company of America Agency: 1901 first car dealership in Japan5

1904 Torao Yamaba created a 10-person steam car which became the first all-Japanese vehicle on record1. It was built with a 2-cylinder engine with about 25 hp. It had a drive chain and was 14.7 feet (4.5 m) long and 4.5 feet (1.4 m) wide6. This was prompted by Mori Funazo and Kusunoki Kentaro who, after seeing an automobile in the Fifth Domestic Industrial Exhibition, wished to run a bus line. They first tried an iron works in Osaka but, after it proved incapable of completing the work, they went to Torao. Unfortunately the construction proved weak in practice. The tire, bolted directly to the rims began to shake loose due to the rough nature of the roads. Thus the dream of a bus line was forgone8.

1911: Together with Tokyo Kinisue Motor Works, Tokyo Motor Vehicle Vehicle Works produced a luxery sedan the first 4-cylinder Japanese car6.

1911: By this year less than 50 cars had been made in Japan1.

1917: The premier of the Mitsubishi Model A was the first car produced without funding from venture capital6.

1918: Kwaishinsha with the help of the Osaka Arsenal opens first factory with machine tools specifically made to facilitate automobile production8.

1919: The Lila debuts and is the first Japanese car built with mass-production in mind6

1923, September 1st, the great Kanto Earthquake devistate Tokyo and Yokohama. The need for vehicular transport of the injured and for general rebuilding promped the import of 800 Ford Model T truck and convert them to buses. These buses were known as Entaro, after a popular rakugoka, a comical Japanese story teller3. The importation of these buses caused Ford to look at the Japanese market and set up a factory in Yokohama in 19251. Since most of the auto industry was produced in the Kanto region the damage allowed American producers to get a foothold in Japan6. To help this along import tarrifs on automobiles were dropped. This did little to help the Japanese auto industry as the imports were cheap and of high quality8.

1924: Junya Toyokawa creates the Otomo for Hakuyosha Co. and about 300 were produced from then until the company is forced out of business in 19276. It is also the first domestic car to be exported when some were shipped to China3

1927 GM arrives in Japan based in Osaka1.

1930: Hatsudoki Seizo introduces the three-wheeled truck.

1931: The Mazda truck, another 3-wheeler, is created by Toyo Kogyo.

1931 The Committee for the Establishment of Domestic Automobile Industry from1

1932 Ishikawajima Automobile Manufacturing Company, the Tokyo Gas & Electric Engineering Company and the DAT Automobile Manufacturing Company formed the Domestic Automobile Association (Kokusan Jidosha Kumiai).

1937 Five-Year Outline Plan for Strategic Industries of the Ministry of War targets a 270% increase in production by 1941.

In 1938, a General Mobilization Act brought about increased government control of Japan's industries

1938 "the Ministry of Commerce and Industry issued guidelines restricting manufacturing to trucks only; production of passenger cars was canceled, with some exceptions."5

The Big Three American companies discontinued production in 1939 and withdrew from Japan. Overall the productions levels were 208,967 American units sold to 12,127 Japanese units1.

1940 "The average per-day per-car consumption of gasoline is 6.39 gallons, or four to six times more than in Western Countries"7.

1941 petroleum exportation was banned from America. This was followed by bans on household and industry bans on its use as well a refitting of automobiles for other fuel sources.

Wartime Aftermath: The estimation of materials destroyed by the Allied Powers is about 1/4 Japan's wealth. This includes 1/3 of all industrial tools and almost 1/4 of rolling stock and motor vehicles. This isn't including their overseas investments. It is further estimated that rural liviving standards had fallen by 45% while non-rural stards had fallen 65%4. 1945-52: The occupation forbids travel abroad (until it was almost over), inhibits diplomatic relations and disallows any major political, administrative or economic decisions without the approval of the occupying forces. Though in theory the demilitarization and democratization was the burden of all of the allied powers it was general Douglas MacArthur that was named Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers and he oversaw Japan and followed American Policy4. When auto production resumed in Japan the government designated it a high priority industry8.

1948: Fuji Motors contracts with the occupying forces to repair their vehicles continuing to do so until 1958. From this much experience is gained and soon defuses to the rest of the industry8.

1950 The Korean War breaks out and the Japanese auto industries is called upon to support America. This, along with the establishment of the Police Reserve Force (keisatsu yobi tai), gave the industry a much needed boost.

"With the signing of the San Francisco Peace Treaty in September 1951, Japan was recognized internationally as an independent and sovereign nation." JAMA This put control of roads and transportation in the Japanese government's hands.

Japan Industrial Standards (JIS) regulations established in 1951

1954 A five year plan for road constuction was put forth and badly needed construction started. This also marked the year that automobile production surpassed 1941's rate8.

1955: The Citizen's Car Project is put underway by MITI. The program specifies that the car should be 4-wheeled capable of reaching 100/km, consume 1 liter every 30 km running at 60/km, the engine be between 350-500 cc and have a production cost of 150,000 yen while selling at 250,000 yen. The production rate should be 2000 units a month. Due to the quality control acts much of this proved unattainable but it helped boost small car production8.

Laws and Standards:

1918 Military Vehicle Subsidy Law: Amongst establising other things it required private owners to turn over their automotive vehicles upon demand of the government1. This subsidy failed in five key ways according to Odaka8: 1: The undeveloped industry, 2: Not enough to overcome foreign competition, 3: Even so was limited by the government budget, 4: Difficult procedure and 5: military trucks were unsuitable for civilian use. Finally the military requisitioned civilian Ford and Chevrolet trucks during the 1931 Manchurian Incident. These proved better than domestic military trucks. Nevertheless the subsidy did keep a few domestic companies alive during the invasion of imports.

1931 "Ministry of Commerce and Industry Standard Model Automobiles"

1933 Vehicles with engines smaller than 750 cc were allowed to be driven without a license8.

1936: The Automobile Manufacturing Industries Act required all registered companies to have government permission and have at least half their capital provided by Japanese. Furthermore said companies must comply with any orders given it by a military authority6. They must buy as much as possible locally. For their complience companies were given things like a 5 years income tax free and tarrif exemption for importing some materials and machinery. Those outside this act were allowed to continue production but were not allowed to expand8.

1939: People who owned more than 10 trucks must use non-gasoline fuels such as charcoal and wood for 10% of their needs. If they more then 20 30% of fuel consumed must be an alternative. Those who own more the 10 passenger cars had a rate of 20% while owners of 50 or more must use 30%. Sightseeing buses had to subsist entirely on other fuels.

1945: September 25, 1500 trucks are allowed to be produced by SCAP.

1947: The Regulation on the Registration of Qualified Auto Parts is passed.

1947: June, SCAP allowed 300 cars to be produced per year as long as they were below 1500cc.

"In October 1949, GHQ lifted its restrictions on passenger car production, and in November all controls on sales were abolished" JAMA

1949 The Dodge Line is passed in Japan disolving any government subsidies that auto firms may be recieving. The reasoning behind this was to keep inflation under control but it had the unfortunate side effect of sending the nation into recession. The yen ended up being fixed to the dollar to encourage exports8.

1950 automobile tax establised

1951 Road Vehicles Act: Requires new vehicle types be approved by the Ministry of Transportation.

1952 The Industry Rationalization Promotion Law: Reduced taxes for chosen industries and made special, low-interest government loans available to them8.

1956: The Provision Act for the Promotion of the Machinary Industry is passed allowing selected parties to recieve low interest loans8.

Honda Motor Co:

1938: Soichiro Honda starts making pistons in his machine shop9.

1949: Honda and Takeo Fujisawa start a motorcycle manufacturing company9.

1959: Honda takes the lead in the Japanese market for motorcycles and establishes itself in the United States9.

Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.:

"Nissan was the first Japanese company to utilize assembly lines and mass production technology"1

"By 1939 Nissan had produced a total of 17,781 vehicles, 75 percent of which were trucks."1

1910: Tobota Casting Company established by Aikawa Yoshisuke with the support of Kaoru Inoue.

1911: Masujiro Hashimoto founds the Kwaishinsha Motor Car Works in Tokyo.

1914: Hashimoto introduces his first car, the DAT with a four-cylinder, 2.0-liter engine.

1918: The Datson model is first produced in the first Japanese factory specialized towards car production8.

1919: Jitsuyo Motors founded.

1924: Kwaishinsha Motor Car Works registered to produce trucks8.

1925: Kwaishinsha Motor Car Works is disolved due to financial reasons8.

1926: Kwaishinsha Motor Car Works merges with Jitsuyo Motors forming DAT motors8.

1932: The Datson brand is changed to Datsun.

1933: The manufacturing and sale of Datsun cars is taken over by the Jidosha Seizo Company, Ltd.

1934: Jidosha Seizo changes its name to Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.

1936: Nissan register within the Auto Industry Act in order to recieve government support.

Early 1940s:During World War II, the company makes military trucks and engines for airplanes and torpedo boats.

1941: "By December production had reached 46,498, of which more than half was for military use."6

1951: Nissan becomes a publicly traded company.

1952: Nissan enters into a license agreement with U.K.-based Austin Motor Company Ltd.

1958: Export of cars to the U.S. market begins.

1966: The company merges with Prince Motor Company Ltd.

1981: The company begins changing its name from Datsun to Nissan in the U.S. market.

1989: The Infiniti line of luxury automobiles is introduced.

1992: The company posts the first pretax loss in its history as a public company; Nissan introduces the Altima small luxury sedan and the Quest minivan, the latter a joint development with Ford Motor Company.

1994: Nissan posts a loss of nearly US$2 billion.

1999: Nissan and Renault S.A. enter into a global alliance, with Renault taking a 37 percent stake in Nissan. A massive restructuring begins.

Toyota Motor Co:

1918: Sakichi Toyoda establishes Toyoda Spinning & Weaving Co., Ltd.

1930: The preparation for auto manufacturing begin in the loom works under the charge of Kichiro Toyota8.

1933: Automobile Department is created within Toyoda Automatic Loom Works8.

1935: First Model A1 passenger car prototype is completed. The G1 Truck is also produced that year.

1936: The company signs the Automobile Industries Act8.

1937: Toyota Motor Co., Ltd. is formed. It was named Toyota because the Japanese writing トヨタ required 8 brush strokes (a lucky number) to write it as opposed to the 10 it took to write Toyoda (トヨダ).

In the early years Toyota relied heavily on imported parts1

1938: Toyota impliments the kanban, or just-in-time production systems. This system required the employees to be trained in all the jobs just in case and all parts were produced so that they would instantly be used further down the line so as not to take up storage space1.

1940: Toyota parts production completely domesticated.

1949: A labor strike threatens Toyota.

1950: Toyota Motor Sales Co., Ltd. is established.

1956: Toyota creates the Toyopet dealer network.

1957: Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. is formed.

1962: Toyota Motor Thailand Co., Ltd. begins operations.

1982: Toyota Motor Company and Toyota Motor Sales merge to form Toyota Motor Corporation.

1995: Hiroshi Okuda becomes company president.

1997: The Prius, Toyota's first 'eco-car,' is launched.

1998: Toyota acquires majority share in Daihatsu Motor Co., Ltd.

Mitsubishi Motors Corporation10:

1917: The Mitsubishi Model A is the company's first autombile. 22 are manufactured that year and it is considered to be Japan's first mass produced car.

1921: Mitsubishi Internal Combustion Engine Manufacturing is established.

1932: The "Mitsubishi Fuso bus" is developed.

1937: A prototype of PX33 military-use 4WD passenger car is produced.

1946: Development of a small three-wheel cargo carrier, the "Mizushima" (XTM1) is completed. Fuso bus production is restarted. A scooter, the "Silver Pigeon" (C-10) is launched.

1948: Production of the industrial "Katsura" engine startes at Kyoto-kiki Manufacturing.

1951: Assembly and sales of the Henry J passenger car (by East Japan Heavy-Industries until 1954) Central Japan Heavy-Industries concludes a contract with Willis for knockdown assembly of the Jeep.

1953: Shin Mitsubishi Heavy-Industries starts knockdown assembly of the Jeep Shin Mitsubishi Heavy-Industries sets up the automobile department at its headquarters again.

1954: Kyoto Plant the first unit of domestic-made four-cylinder gasoline engine JH4 for the Jeep. Mitsubishi Nippon Heavy-Industries established the automobile department at its headquarters.

1955:The "Mizushima" small three-wheel cargo carrier is renamed "Mitsubishi-Go."

1961: Shin Mitsubishi Heavy-Industries launches the "Mitsubishi 500,"the first compact four-wheel passenger car.

1962: Shin Mitsubishi Heavy-Industries launches the "Colt 600." The Okazaki test track is completed. Shin Mitsubishi Heavy-Industries launches a light four-wheel passenger car, the "Mitsubishi Minica." The "Mitsubishi 500 Super Deluxe" wins a class title in the 9th Macau Grand Prix.

1964: A Fuso mid-size truck is launched. The "Colt 1000" wins a class title in the 2nd Japan Grand Prix Auto Races. The three Heavy-Industries merge into Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Mitsubishi Motor sales Corporation is established. A high-class passenger car, the "Debonair" is launched.

1966: The "Colt Formula 3A" wins the 3rd Japan Grand Prix. A light four-wheel cab-over truck, the "Mitsubishi Minicab" is launched.

1967: The "Colt IIA" wins the formula car race in the 4th Japan Grand Prix Auto Races.

1968: The "Colt FIIB" wins the 5th Japan Grand Prix Speed Cup Race. A partnership agreement with Isuzu Motors Ltd. is signed.(Terminated in 1969). The "Colt 1100F Sport" wins the 3rd Australian Southern Cross Rally.

1969: The automobile division is reorganized into the automobile operational headquarters. A cab-over-type commercial vehicle, the "Delica" is launched. The "Colt Galant" (with 4G3 Saturn engine onboard) is launched

Specialty Vehicles

Visual Sources

Car Shipment Vehicle: ホンダの歩み : 1973-1983 1984 (S 59) OCLC: #30967312, Last page of glossy pictures, bottom right

Idea Contest Entrant: ホンダの歩み : 1973-1983 1984 (S 59) OCLC: #30967312, 170

Honda's First Tiller:

    ホンダの歩み : 1973-1983 1984 (S 59) OCLC: #30967312, 175  
    Honda Worldwide Website [1]

"Suki" Amphibious Personel Carrier from Toyota: トヨタ自動車30年史 OCLC: 18502172, 159

Works Cited:

1. James, Wanda "Driving from Japan: Japanese Cars in America" Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc, 2005. OCLC: 53388346

2. Alexander, Arthur J. "Japan's Economy in the 20th Century" The Japan Economic Institute of America. August 2005. <>

3. "Toyota Automobile Museum" Toyota Motor Corp. 10/26/2007. <>

4. Dower, John W. "Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War 2" New York, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1999. OCLC: 39143090

5. "An Overview. Japan's Auto Industry. About JAMA" Japanese Automobile Manufacturing Association. October 2007. <>

6. Ruiz, Marco "Japanese Car" Somerset, England. Haynes Publishing Group. 1988. OCLC 17579843

7. "Japan Trade Guide" Tokyo, Japan. Domei Tsushin Sha. 1940.

8: Odaka, Konosuke, Keinosuke Ono and Fumihiko Adachi "The Automobile Industry of Japan: A Study of Ancillary Firm Development" Tokyo, Japan. Kinokuniya Company Ltd. 1988. OCLC 19976084

9: "Honda Motor Company Limited" Funding Universe. 1999.

10: "Mitsubishi Motors Web Museum" Mitsubishi Motors Corporate Site. 2003.

11: "Honda - History Timeline" Honda Comporate Site. 2008.

12: Cohen, Jerome B. "Japan's Postwar Economy" New York, New York. Indiana University Press. 1958. OCLC 869674