In March 1907, professors Yoshinki and Turumi from Osaka University established Hatsudoki Seizo Co. Ltd, an internal combustion engine manufacturing company that began its operational life building industrial engines for the Japanese domestic market.
Initially the engines were fuelled by natural gas and used in a variety of marine, mining and power generating industries. With the emergence of the automobile, Hatsudoki saw an opportunity to extend its operations through the production of motor vehicles and by 1919 had completed production of two prototype trucks. It was these two prototypes and the outstanding performance of each truck during testing, which led Hatsudoki to concentrate its future efforts on motor vehicles.
By 1930 Hatsudoki had launched its first production vehicle, the 500cc Model HA, Japan's first domestically produced automobile. The HA was more a motorcycle than a motorcar by today's standards, in that it was a three-wheeler driven by a 500cc engine.
Over the next eight years four more models were released, including Japan's first compact four-wheel car. It was this 600kg, air-cooled, 730cc, twin cylinder prototype, that would shape the company's future and mark the beginning of the mini cars.
Demand for the new Hatsudoki products was increasing at a rapid rate enabling the company to expand its operations through the construction of a new manufacturing plant in Ikeda in 1938. In that year Hatsudoki produced another prototype car, an open top 4WD sports car, which was powered by a 1.2 litre engine and a three-speed transmission that allowed it to reach speeds of up to 70 kph.
In 1951 the expanding Hatsudoki company underwent a transformation and Daihatsu Kogyo Co. Ltd (which means Osaka Generator Manufacturer) was born. The company became synonymous with small car excellence and continued to trade under this name until 1974 when it became Daihatsu Motor Company Ltd.
Sales of Daihatsu's three wheel automobiles were exceptional by 1957 and the company embarked on an export program to expand sales.
By 1970 Daihatsu became the first Japanese car manufacturer to export vehicles to the United Kingdom, and within the next ten years the company was exporting to countries all around the world including Italy and China.
The mini car concept was received exceptionally well by the Europeans and sales of cars such as the Charade soared. In 1985, Italy's Alfa Romeo recognised the potential of the Charade and began producing them for the Italian market in its South African factory.
Today, almost one hundred years later, Daihatsu is recognised as Japan's oldest vehicle manufacturer, a small car specialist - and Japan's big small car manufacturer. It continues to produce automobiles for over one hundred countries around the world.