The Daihatsu Motor Company Ltd started out as the Hatsudoki Seizo Company Ltd. This company was started in 1907 by a group of professors from Osaka University to develop a small stationary engine. The company’s main focus became steam engines for rail locomotives and later on diesel engines for rail locomotives.
The local Japanese automobile manufacturing business was very small with less than 10% of vehicles sold in Japan being manufactured in Japan.
The company’s initial successes were with mini vehicles, a three-wheeler with a locally produced engine in 1930 and a mini four-wheeler in 1937.
In 1939 Hatsudoki Seizo opened its first major plant in Ikeda to service the demand from the military.
Post World War II there was very little demand for locally manufactured vehicles but when the Korean War started it created a huge demand for vehicles.
In 1951 Hatsudoki Seizo Co Ltd changed its name to Daihatsu Motor Co Ltd. Hatsudoki Seizo is almost a generic name meaning engine producer or engine manufacturer, so it was decided to change the name to Daihatsu using the first Japanese character in “Osaka” (used this way it is pronounced Dai rather than O) combined with “Hatsu”.
Toyota first started taking equity in Daihatsu in 1967. In 1995 Toyota increased its shareholding from 16.8% to 33.40% and in 1998 to 51.20%. In 2016 Daihatsu became a fully owned subsidiary of Toyota.