A History of Yoshisuke Aikawa – Founder of Nissan

Yoshisuke Aikawa was the founder and first president of Nissan zaibatsu. He was born in 1880 in what is now part of Yamaguchi city. Aikawa graduated from Tokyo Imperial University in engineering and went to work for Shibaura Saisakusho the forerunner of Toshiba. He made a trip to the United States where he researched malleable cast iron. When he returned to Japan he established the Tobata Foundry in 1909 which is known now as the Hitachi Metals company.

In 1928 Yoshisuke Aikawa became the president of Kuhara Mining Company, now the Nippon Mining & Metals Company. He created a holding company called Nihon Sangyo or Nissan for short. In the stock market boom following 1931, Aikawa bought majority shareholdings in over a hundred subsidiary companies of Nissan to create the Nissan Konzerne. This group included some of the most technologically advanced companies in Japan at that time.

In 1937 he moved to Manchukuo and eventually moved the headquarters of Nissan to Manchukuo where it became part of the Manchurian Industrial Development Company. As president and chairman, he guided all industrial efforts in Manchukuo and received bank loans from American steel industrialists to support the Manchukuo economy.

Yoshisuke Aikawa was not in agreement with the political views of the Imperial Japanese Army and predicted that Nazi Germany would be defeated if a general war broke out. He also supported the Fugu Plan to settle Jewish refugees in Manchukuo. Forced by the Kwantung Army, Aikawa resigned as chairman in 1942 and moved back to Japan. After the surrender of Japan, Yoshisuke Aikawa was arrested by the American occupation authorities and imprisoned in the Sugamao Prison for twenty months as a Class A war crimes suspect. He was freed but during this time the Nissan zaibatsu had been dissolved.

After he was released, Yoshisuke Aikawa played a key role in the post war economic reconstruction of Japan and purchased a commercial bank to organize loans to small companies. The zaibatsu was reformed into Nichiyo-kai, Nissan Group.

Nissan Motors was a small side business for Nissan Group compared to the core real estate business. During the real estate crash of the 1990s the Nissan Group shed the majority of its real estate gave Nissan Motors more independence especially after Renault SA bought a 39% stake. The turnaround of Nissan can be attributed to the CEO Carlos Ghosn who was installed in 1999. He detached Nissan Motors from the Nissan keiretsu connections and debt.

Yoshisuke Aikawa died in 1967 of gall bladder inflammation and is buried in Tama Cemetery outside Tokyo.

Short History of BMW

BMW has come a long way since its inception as an aircraft engine manufacturer to one of the most popular family, luxury and sports car manufacturers today.

The company began in 1913 as the Rapp-Motorenwerke firm, making aircraft engines, before merging with the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke factory, located nearby on the outskirts of Munich, in 1922. The letters BMW stand for Bayerische Motoren Werke.

In its early days, BMW mainly manufactured aircraft engines and occasionally motorcycle engines. In fact, the BMW badge was designed to resemble an aircraft propeller, and it wasn’t until 1929 that the firm became automobile manufacturers after purchasing the Fahrzeugfabrik Eisenach factory which produced Austin Sevens.

Developing the style of car manufactured over time, in 1936 BMW started to produce the 328 sports car which went on to enjoy incredible success. In 1999, the BMW 328 was nominated as car of the century.

For the three years leading up to World War II, BMW manufactured aircraft engines, motorcycles and cars. During the war, the company focused on aircraft engines and ceased making cars altogether. In 1948, motorcycle manufacturing started again but it was not until 1952 that BMW began building cars once more. The launch of the BMW 501 luxury car was not a big hit, however, and the company did not make a profit as a result and so the company brought the design and manufacturing rights to the Isetta – a micro-car, cheap to manufacture – and began selling these.

BMW’s luck changed during the next decade and the 1960s brought considerable success for the firm. The BMW 1500, a four-cylinder sports car, was introduced in 1961 followed shortly afterward by the BMW 2002, a two-door car that stayed in production until 1976 and was the predecessor of the BMW 3 Series.

The ’70s saw BMW continue to build their reputation for creating original and sought-after cars, as this decade saw the launch of the 3, 5 and 7 Series. Between 1970 and 1993, BMW increased its output fourfold and turnover by an incredible 1700%.

Between 1994 and 2000, BMW had ownership of the British Rover Group but the venture was not successful and the company soon got rid of Rover. However, BMW retained the rights to Mini and has enjoyed – and continues to enjoy – considerable achievement with this business.

Today, BMW is seen as an innovative manufacturer and has a reputation for excellence, both for its design and quality of cars.