Renault, Nissan, and Mitsubishi — all bound together now — jumped ahead of Volkswagen, Toyota, and General Motors to become the world’s largest automaker.
For many years, that place belonged to GM. Volkswagen, though, having gained Audi, Skoda, Seat, and Porsche, started battling Toyota for first place when they grew and GM shrank. Toyota’s growth has almost entirely been organic, with very few acquisitions.
The irony of this is that Mitsubishi was originally meant to be acquired by Chrysler, in the 1970s. The automaker’s parent keiretsu had tired of its losses, and Chrysler needed its ability to make cars consistently well and to make small cars. The pairing seemed to be made in Heaven, with almost no competition between the companies, but it was not to be; Chrysler ran into financial trouble, had management changes, and eventually went on its own — just before being acquired by Daimler. Daimler then tried to buy Mitsubishi, but was eventually rebuffed. Then Fiat Chrysler started linking up with the company again, selling Mitsubishis in Mexico and using its pickup design, until Renault-Nissan bought in and left FCA out in the cold.
Renault, Nissan, and Mitsubishi, together, made 10.61 million light vehicles in 2017 — 5.8 million from Nissan (a record year), 3.8 million from Renault, and 1.0 million from Mitsubishi. Volkswagen pumped out 10.53 million and Toyota, 10.2 million.