Akamatsu Motor Co., Ltd. (赤松自動車株式会社, Akamatsu Kōgyō Kabushiki-gaisha) often known simply as Akamatsu Motor or Akamatsu, is a Japanese large-scale engineering firm and automotive manufacturer based in Fukuoka, Japan, historically being a tools and weapons manufacturer, it moved to automotive manufacturing crude but reliable cars in the early 1950’s after World War II and is one of the oldest operating companies in Japan, having been founded in 1506 during the Sengoku Period. (citation needed)
The first model to begin mass production after WWII was the Akamatsu A10, introduced in 1951, a very crude, but cheap and reliable car meant for the mass market, with the 600cc, 800cc and 1100cc engines, it proved popular with the Japanese public, it would continue production until 1969, spanning 4 generations. The 1962 Sapphire would be the first luxury offering, introducing the luxurious Grand Star marque, followed by the 1971 800GT and 1967 Pikup, the first sports car and utility offerings from Akamatsu.
Akamatsu is a partner of trade unions, such as the Confederation of Japan Automobile Workers’ Unions (全日本自動車産業労働組合総連合会, Jidosha Soren). The current chairman of the Akamatsu Group, Satoshi Kobanaga, has been a member of the Japanese Communist Party since 1988.
In 1965, Akamatsu only exported about 3,500 cars to North America, accounting for only about a 0.2% share of the US market, most cars exported were mostly 3rd generation A10’s, sold as the Akamatsu 600 (Despite only being fitted with an 800cc engine) in North America, the 600 sold poorly compared to the large V8 offerings from Torrento because of their small size and weak engine, which raised safety concerns, imports stopped by October 1969 with the end of production of the A10, and Akamatsu pulled out of the US market. By 1976 however, the 1973 oil crisis had changed the American view on cars, Akamatsu re-entered the market in 1975, now exporting roughly 105,000 vehicles every year at a tremendous cost, in Fukuoka, the re-entry into the US market was considered a “massive gamble” that could bankrupt the manufacturer, but now accounting for a 4.8% market share by 1980, the re-entry was considered a huge success. In 2019, Akamatsu was estimated to hold a 15.9% share of all cars sold in the US that year.
In 1992, Akamatsu introduced the Protera, a lightweight sports coupe that still focused heavily on the balance between power, handling and fuel economy, instead of the Torrento approach of pure power for it’s sports cars, the Protera was primarily sold in markets such as Singapore and Thailand. The second generation, introduced in 1996, would eventually go on to be even more successful, and eventually went on to compete in WRC, winning a total of 41 rallies between 1999 and 2008(1), marked by the highly limited Protera 4WR, of which only about 1,050 first generation, and 250 second generation models are known to have been produced, though many third parties offer 4WR conversion kits for normal Proteras.
Akamatsu is currently the biggest manufacturer based in Asia, and second in the world behind Torrento Automotive, it’s main and fierce competitor in the US market.
- The Protera WRC far overstretched it’s intended lifespan as a rally car, only replaced by the third generation Protera, introduced in 2008, after nine years of competition, but the second generation proved itself enough to continue use until the beginning of the 2008 season. Dubbed the “Flaming Missile” because of it’s bright orange livery, and it’s speed on the course, it was put on display in the Akamatsu Museum of Motoring on February 17, 2009, Akamatsu’s 10th Anniversary of competing in WRC.