The Japanese car manufacturer, Daihatsu, was founded in 1951, but its history goes back to the early years of the 20th century. In 1907, Daihatsu's forerunner, the Hatsudoki Seizo Company was formed.
From the outset, Daihatsu sought to produce small affordable cars. Two of its earlier launches were the three wheel Midget Model DKA in 1957 and the "Bee", which was also a three-wheeler, in 1958. The company specialised in manufacturing small passenger Daihatsu cars, but all were three wheelers. It was not until 1958 that the company launched its first four-wheel model.
In 1964 Daihatsu launched the Compagno, which had originally been designed by Toyota, who went on to take control of 51 per cent of Daihatsu in 1999. The Compagno was produced as a two-door saloon and convertible and remained in production for the next six years. It is renowned for being the first Japanese car to be sold in the United Kingdom.
Daihatsu originally built small cars, because at its foundations it was producing for a Japanese nation still recovering from the devastating effects of World War II. By the '70s the country's economy was on its way to becoming one of the biggest of the world. However, it was the country's tax regime, which meant the company still had to limit the power and size of its cars. This led to the development of " K cars."
Today, unfavourable market conditions have led to Daihatsu sales declining to the extent that the company has decided to cease its exports to Europe from early 2013. This could well lead to a boom in the market for second-hand Daihatsu cars.
Daihatsu's greatest achievement was undoubtedly its range of K cars. The Move and the Copen, both examples of the genre, remain in production today.