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Daihatsu is one of the largest Japanese automobile manufacturers. Specializing in small-capacity cars production, Daihatsu also makes compact minivans, pick-ups, and SUVs. Since 1967, the company is a subsidiary of Toyota Motor Corporation.
A Large Producer of Small Autos
Daihatsu is one of the oldest automakers in the Land of the Rising Sun. In 1907, a group of professors from Osaka University established Hatsudoki Seizo Co., Ltd. Originally, the enterprise made internal combustion and petrol engines. Their products were in demand because engines are an indispensable part of any vehicle – from surface vehicles to water ones.
Only in 1930, the company represented an own-produced auto. However, it doesn’t coincide with a traditional image we visualize when hear this word – it was a three-wheeler. Despite its peculiarity, the model was rather advantageous: it was easy to drive, it was affordable for an average Japanese, a much smaller tax was imposed on this kind of vehicle, and it could easily manoeuvre in narrow streets of Japanese cities.
In the early 50s, when the Japanese – and the world – economy started to be restored after wars, Hatsudoki Seizo decided to try to export its vehicles. But in the first place, they changed the company’s name so that foreigners could easily remember and pronounce it. As a result, in 1951, Daihatsu Kogyo Co. appeared.
The same year, the company’s first passenger car was launched. The Daihatsu Bee was equipped with a 540 cc air-cooled OHV flat twin engine; it had a fiberglass body and weighed 800 kg. However, it’s supposed that even less than 100 cars were ever made due to slow sales.
The Midget, a compact three-wheel truck, which was sold abroad, had another destiny. This model managed to succeed even in the USA. The next company’s truck – four-wheel this time – also was welcomed both at home and abroad.
A couple of rather successful models inspired the automaker to design different vehicles – compact passenger cars, vans, and trucks. Meanwhile, the company – the first in Japan – experimented with electric engines.
Cooperation with Toyota Motor Corporation
1967 was a turning point in Daihatsu company’s history. It signed a cooperation agreement with Toyota Motor Corporation that made Daihatsu its subsidiary a bit later.
As a result of the consolidation, the Daihatsu Charmant on the basis of the Toyota Corolla was launched in 1975. A year later, the Cuore with a 2-cylinder 547cc engine and the Taft, the automaker’s first AWD SUV, were rolled out.
One of the best sold Daihatsu cars ever was the Terios (1997), a five-door SUV. Due to its compactness, which isn’t characteristic of traditional off-roaders, it was perfect not just for cross-country but also city roads. There were Terios versions with 1.3- and 1.5-litre motors. Also, customers could choose a transmission suitable for them – mechanical or automatic.
At the same time, the Terios Kid was launched. It was powered with just a 0.66-litre motor that made the car very fuel efficient.
In the early 90s, such Daihatsu cars as the Applause, the Charade, the Pyzar, the Cuore, the Move, and the Mira were the most popular. The Daihatsu Hijet (or the Atrai), a mini-truck, was turned out in a variety of forms – as a microbus, pick-up, and something a cross between the two. Daihatsu was known as a manufacturer of high-quality and comfortable SUVs – think of the Rocky (or the Feroza), a SUV that resembled a Jeep with a 1.6-litre 95 hp engine.
2004 saw the Sirion launch. By the way, the model has been produced also as the Toyota Passo. The Sirion is a five-door hatchback, compact and spacious at the same time that makes it comfortable for driving in a city. The model is available with 1- and 1.3-litre engines.
Engineers at Daihatsu get with the times and always try to improve their creations with advanced technologies. The company exports its products in 140 countries with about 60% of vehicles sold in the domestic market.
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