Komatsu Iron Works was started by Takeuchi Mining Industry as a subsidiary to make industrial tools for the parent company. Komatsu eventually became large enough to sell to the public, and was spun off on May 13, 1921 as Komatsu Ltd.
Komatsu produced its first agricultural tractor prototype in 1931. Through the 1930s, Komatsu produced military tractors for the Japanese military, as well as bulldozers, tanks and howitzers. After World War II, under its new president Yoshinari Kawai, Komatsu added non-military bulldozers and forklifts to its line of equipment. In 1949, it began production of its first diesel engine. Its growth as a company was aided by the strong demand for its bulldozers during Japan’s post-war reconstruction in the 1950s. In august 1951, the corporate headquarters were moved to Tokyo. By 1957, the company had advanced technologically to the point that all its models were using Komatsu engines.
In 1964, Rioichi Kawai, son of Yoshinari Kawai, became president of Komatsu, and it began exporting its products, looking to counteract the postwar image of Japanese products as being cheap and poorly made. In July 1967, it entered the U.S. market, taking on Caterpillar, the largest bulldozer maker, in its home market. This was done under the company slogan of “Maru-C”, translating into English as “encircle Caterpillar” (from the game of Go (board game), where encircling an opponent results in capture of his territory).
Komatsu and Dresser Industries established Komatsu Dresser to make mining tractors and related equipment. This 50-50 ownership lasted from September 1988 to August 1994, when Komatsu bought out Dresser’s share. Komatsu’s mining products were consolidated under the name Komatsu Mining Systems in 1997. To prevent brand-name confusion during these corporate changes, the name “Haulpak” was used for the product line Komatsu began with Dresser. The name “Haulpak” dates back to 1957 when LeTourneau-Westinghouse introduced a range of rear dump trucks known as ‘Haulpaks”. LeTourneau-Westinghouse equipment later became known simply as WABCO equipment in 1967. The name Haulpak was an industry term that eventually became applied to any type of rear dump truck. A detailed history of the development of the Haulpak can be found in Wabco Australia.
Today, Komatsu is one of the giants in the earthmoving and mining sectors, with a company revenue of over US$20B, their fleet of excavators, bulldozers, articulated dump trucks, and much more, make it a solid competitor to its rivals.