Founded in 1907 to manufacture the internal combustion engine
, by 1930 the company was manufacturing three-wheeled vans. It was not until the early 1950's that Daihatsu began the manufacture of passenger cars, it owing much of its design to the earlier vans, even carrying over the three-wheeled layout and rear mounted 540cc air-cooled
engine. By 1963 Daihatsu had managed to add the much needed 4th wheel to their Campagno models, although these early iterations were still extremely small in size; available in saloon, sports and station wagon variants, all were equipped with the Daihatsu 797cc four cylinder engine.
By 1966 the engine capacity had grown to 958cc, it producing 65 bhp, then in 1967 the company again returned to the manufacture of light-weight mini cars, this time with the 356cc "Fellow"; despite its diminutive size it would prove extremely popular in the domestic market, and would remain in production into the early 1970's. Absorbed into the Toyota conglomerate, the companies offerings were soon to mimic those of its bigger brother, although they were always smaller and cheaper. The Compagno was replaced by the Consorte, and in reality it was only a thinly disguised Corolla. Most notable though was the Taft; this Jeep like 4x4 was powered by a 958cc four cylinder engine and would begin a trend that would see Daihatsu manufacture a long line of very profitable light 4 wheel drive vehicles, the only real competition in this section of the market coming from Suzuki's LJ80.
the Fellow had grown to a 547cc four stroke engine, however the use by date had long expired, it being replaced by the Cuore fitted with a transverse mounted engine. Then came the wonderful little Charade, a front-wheel-drive car fitted with a unique 60.6ci 993cc three cylinder engine mated to a 5 speed gearbox. Incredibly popular, the engineers even set about fitting the little Charade with an ultra-economical turbo
. For a time the Charade held the honor of being the only 3 cylinder car in the world, excluding of course the Italian built Innocenti, but even this car used the Daihatsu engine.
Daihatsu was selling passenger vehicles in Australia in small numbers long before it broke into the 4WD
field. A series of mini cars and larger sedans were imported in the 1960s and, in 1966
, the Spider sports car was launched. Powered by a 1000cm3 four-cylinder engine, it was claimed to do a genuine 144 km/h. A revised model appeared in September 1967
, using the same engine and body style but a face-lifted grills. It was more of an open tourer than a sports car. Imports ceased in 1968
(although they were to re-enter the Australian market). The original imports are rare and growing in value.