Home » Finally, A Definitive Guide To Automakers That Also Offered Home Air Conditioners, So You Can Stop Asking

Finally, A Definitive Guide To Automakers That Also Offered Home Air Conditioners, So You Can Stop Asking

Air Conditioner Car Brands Ts
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Modern cars are inordinately complicated machines. Producing them at any sort of scale is only the preserve of larger companies that have serious capital and the means of production. Naturally, these larger companies tend to grow over time, picking up many and varied interests along the way.

If you grew up in the 1990s, you might have noticed that your CD drive wore a Mitsubishi logo. Fast forward to today, and you might have a Hyundai fridge or a Yamaha hi-fi in your home. These aren’t coincidences—they’re examples of industrial giants with their fingers in many pies.

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As I recently found out, a surprising number of car companies also make air conditioners! Some are familiar car companies you’ve heard of, but you had no idea they did AC. Others are well-known AC brands that you didn’t know made cars! Read on, and become a hopeless HVAC nerd in addition to being a car enthusiast. It won’t make you any more boring at parties, I promise.

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The design language of Mitsubishi’s 1990s air conditioners really complemented the Mitsubishi 3000GT.

Asian Industrial Giants

Let’s start with the obvious answers first. Mitsubishi is well known for its presence in a wide variety of non-automotive industries. It’s one of the “Big Six” keiretsu firms in Japan—a term used to refer to a group of related companies that have bound themselves together into a larger, more powerful whole.

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Mitsubishi Electric got into air conditioning in a big way starting in the 1950s with everything from small-scale residential units to larger commercial machines.

We typically think of Mitsubishi as a car manufacturer, but Mitsubishi Motors is just one part of the broader Mitsubishi Group. The company actually dates back to 1870, having been established as a shipping company. It quickly broadened into a manufacturer in several fields, spinning off businesses over the years. Mitsubishi Electric spun off in 1921, becoming a major global electronics manufacturer that would enter the air conditioning market in the 1950s. Meanwhile, Mitsubishi Motors became an independent subsidiary in 1970, formerly having been the automotive division of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Hilariously, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is also involved in the air conditioning market, too.

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Mitsubishi is one of the most well-known examples for multiple reasons. They’re a major automaker, their product is visible in many of our homes and businesses, and it features the brand’s distinctive triple-diamond logo. Other examples are less obvious, but not any less valid!

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Mitsubishi’s KIRIGAMINE line of air conditioners debuted in 1968. Handsome, no?
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The company markets a line of compact units under the “Mr. Slim” branding (not to be confused with Slim Jim, the best-selling meat stick).

You might know that Samsung manufactures air conditioners as well as phones. What you might not know is that the company also builds cars. Samsung tried to get into the automotive world by buying Kia in the 1990s but was beaten to the punch by Hyundai. Instead, Samsung ended up in a partnership with Nissan, and later Renault. It built cars like the Samsung SM5, based on the Nissan Maxima, and had some vaguely unique products and branding. Today, what was once Samsung Motors is now known as Renault Korea. The company has since taken on the French company’s diamond logo, abandoning its unique branding earlier this year. However, Samsung maintains a stake in the business.

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A Samsung air conditioner…
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…and a Samsung car. Yep. It’s a thing.

Speaking of Korea, we all know Hyundai for cars, but they also build air conditioners! It started as a construction company in 1947, and quickly became one of the most powerful South Korean conglomerates, or chaebol. However, the amalgamated company was split into component parts in the wake of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis. The appliance arm builds air conditioners today under the banner of the Hyundai Corporation. It’s got pretty much nothing to do with the car company, but it spawned from the same corporate entity.

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There is only a tenuous link between the Hyundai car company and the air conditioning manufacturer, but it’s there.

Tata Group is another great example. The massive Indian conglomerate has Tata Motors to build cars, while Voltas produces a range of home appliances including air conditioners. Tata Motors dates back to 1945, having built everything from the diminutive Tata Nano to heavy trucks and buses. Tata also hilariously owns Jaguar Land Rover. Meanwhile, Voltas got its start in 1954, entering the AC market in the 1960s by licensing designs from Carrier Corporation.

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Tata has built lots of different vehicles over the years…
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…but the Nano is probably its most memorable on the world stage.
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Voltas air conditioners wear prominent Tata branding.

I also looked into Chinese automakers, but couldn’t find many links with the HVAC world. The biggest Chinese automakers are state-owned affairs or partnerships with foreign entities, and don’t have the same sprawling conglomerate structures that you see in the Korean and Japanese business worlds. My search was non-exhaustive though, so there may be a Chinese car company with an air-conditioning link. As for Vinfast in Vietnam, nothing I’ve found suggests that Vingroup makes air conditioners, but I’m unable to be 100% certain as they may have bought out some small subsidiary company at some point in the past.

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American Exceptionalism

American auto companies are big sprawling businesses, too. Naturally, a few got into the HVAC game at one point or another.

Nash is a great example, as the company underwent a merger to become Nash-Kelvinator in 1937. Just prior to the merger, Kelvinator had pioneered the concept of the “Kelvin Home,” which showcased the company’s latest home appliances and featured an integrated ducted climate control system. Kelvinator stuck around as Nash merged with Hudson and became AMC, but it was eventually sold off in 1968. The companies had parted before AMC released its oddball “Desert Mode” air conditioning systems.

Nash became a pioneer in automotive AC after its merger with Kelvinator.
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Kelvinator built some wild AC units in the 1950s. Check out Air Conditioner Man for more.

The Big Three got involved, too. In 1934, Chrysler was building the famous Airflow. At the same time, it established the Airtemp Corporation, which dealt with refrigeration, heating, and cooling systems. A notable early job involved building the HVAC system for the Chrysler Building. Airtemp was sold off in 1976 due to poor financial performance.

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Chrysler Airtemp built air conditioners for residential, commercial, and industrial applications.

Ford got involved in HVAC when it bought its way in, amidst the nascent space craze. In 1961, Ford was building the classic Galaxie. Meanwhile, Philco was an established manufacturer of appliances—including air conditioners—when it was snapped up by the Detroit automaker.  The company’s products were rebranded as “Philco-Ford” by 1966. Ford eventually got bored or something and sold Philco to GTE in 1974. It wasn’t a long partnership, but plenty of appliances left the factory wearing Philco-Ford badging, including the Blue Oval!

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Philco-Ford products wore the traditional Ford logo.
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In 1969, Philco-Ford thought you might like to hide your air conditioner away when not in use.

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General Motors has a longer history in this area than both its rivals, however. Nathaniel B. Wales and Alfred Mellowes had developed the first self-contained refrigerator in 1916, and formed the Guardian Frigerator Company (not a typo!) to produce and market them. GM founder William C. Durant got in on the ground floor, investing in the new company in 1918. It became Frigidaire a year later under GM’s ownership. All the way back when Chevrolet was building the Series 490, GM was also going big on fridges.

Frigidaire would eventually get into air conditioners, too, as they use fundamentally the same technology as fridges. It claims to have developed the first practical room air conditioner in 1929, and would also go on to manufacture AC components for GM’s cars, too. The love affair lasted until 1979, when Frigidaire was sold off to White Consolidated Industries.

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A 1969 Frigidaire unit bears the GM logo.

Pointless Comparisons

Researching this article got me wondering aloud. Do car companies with air conditioning arms make better cars? I suspect it’s not really a big thing, either way, but let’s think about it.

Mitsubishi has certainly made some excellent cars since the broader corporation got into the AC game. Its golden era was probably the 1990s, and it’s been on a bit of a downhill slide since then. Hyundai, on the other hand, has made excellent cars in recent years, though most would have come after the breakup of the grander Hyundai corporation into smaller independent parts. As for Samsung’s cars, they were largely anonymous rehashes of Renault and Nissan product.

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Mitsubishi might be the most well-known car manufacturer in the AC space, but it was by no means the first.

On the other hand, the correlation for American automakers is stronger. Nash and AMC were in a strong position when they were still involved with Kelvinator. Similarly, Chrysler, Ford and GM all had AC divisions in the Golden Era of American muscle cars. In fact, once they began selling off their AC investments in the 1970s, we entered the Malaise Era. Correlation isn’t causation, but hey—don’t tell me that’s not an interesting connection!

There are lots of other auto manufacturers that made great cars without diving into HVAC, though. Companies like Toyota, Nissan, and Honda have all built amazing cars. You won’t find their logos on your wall-mounted split system, nor your central heating control panel. And yet, they achieved greatness nonetheless.

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Spend enough time staring at the walls in your home office and you’ll come up with weird ideas for articles, too!

In reality, there’s little benefit seen in car production when an automaker gets involved in the AC business. It was at times convenient for automakers to draw on their corporate connections to supply AC components for their vehicles, sure. In the early days of automotive AC, the internal technology transfer was probably quite helpful, to boot. Regardless, the connections were not particularly meaningful or important outside a business context.

Ultimately, this was a very silly article based on a random musing I had on a public holiday. I was surprised to find just how many automakers really had dived into the air conditioning business. Big corporations are prone to winding their way into all kinds of industries, and that’s long been the way. Just remember—if you’re a true car fan, you’ll get a window AC unit to match what you’ve got parked in the driveway. That’s the way.

Image credits: GM, Ford, Philco-Ford, Chrysler, Frigidaire, Mitsubishi, Mitsubishi Electric, Hyundai, Hyundai Corporation, Samsung, Renault Korea, Nash-Kelvinator, Airtemp, Lewin Day

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1961ford
1961ford
1 month ago

This company sold everything (including cars and air conditioners):
Sears Coldspot A/C | Air Conditioner Fan | Flickr
Allstate (automobile) – Wikipedia

JIHADJOE
JIHADJOE
1 month ago

This is great! Please do carmakers that also build planes next. I’m sure there’s at least a few of them but I can’t recall what most of their planes look like aside from Saab and Mitsubishi.

PajeroPilot
PajeroPilot
1 month ago

I remember my daughter at the age of 4 spotting a Mitsubishi Electric AC unit, pointing at the logo and excitedly declaring, “That’s a Pajero air conditioner!”

Now when are Daikin releasing an SUV?

WM
WM
1 month ago

Finally! I’ve been asking for this for years

Cayde-6
Cayde-6
1 month ago

Companies that make products with air conditioners in them also make air conditioners. News at 11.

Bassracerx
Bassracerx
1 month ago

OP you forgot Daewoo.

SLM
SLM
1 month ago

My wife have taken the Peugeot 205 tonight, so I’ll take my Peugeot bicycle to buy some food, and I’ll put some pepper on it freshly grinded with my Peugeot grinder. Unfortunately Peugeot never made A/C, so I won’t have cool air.

Alexander Moore
Alexander Moore
1 month ago
Reply to  SLM

Unfortunately Peugeot never made A/C, so I won’t have cool air.

I heard the French are scared of A/C, they think it gives you the illness or something.

Manuel Verissimo
Manuel Verissimo
1 month ago
Reply to  SLM

They made dishwashers at some point, so maybe it’s worth investigating.

VanGuy
VanGuy
1 month ago

Didn’t know almost everybody went all-in on conglomeration at some point, although I did know Yamaha and Mitsubishi are pretty diverse.

My most recent surprise of any similar sort was seeing Hyundai branded mini-desktops on Monoprice.

Daniil Ivshin
Daniil Ivshin
1 month ago

Not on topic, but those those fiddly little light switches in AusNZ bug me. So small compared to the size of the plate and annoying to feel around for in the dark. It’s useful if you want to fit 6 onto one plate, but it would be nice to get an option for a larger one for single or doubles.

PajeroPilot
PajeroPilot
1 month ago
Reply to  Daniil Ivshin

Bigger chunkier ones exist, they are very commonly installed in places like aged care homes and retirement villages. Compared to the little ones I am used to though, they feel flimsier.

I know a guy who installed a chunky light switch in his shed next to the beer fridge – he calls them “drunk switches”.

Isaac Fortner
Isaac Fortner
1 month ago

It’s pretty staggering the breadth of products under the Mitsubishi Group branding, but it’s important to note that Mitsubishi Electric is an entirely distinct legal and corporate entity from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Mitsubishi Chemical Group, etc. While they share a logo and the CEOs have friendly chats with each other, there’s zero shared corporate infrastructure. Like someone working on AC units for Mitsubishi Electric couldn’t ask HR for a transfer to make cars for Mitsubishi Heavy, or if Mitsubishi Electric wanted to buy a say a refrigerant from Mitsubishi Chemical, they would do so at the same pricing and business relationship as anybody else buying the refrigerant.

Usually none of the group companies directly compete with each other though, so it is interesting that both Mitsubishi Heavy and Mitsubishi Electric both have their own HVAC lines. Maybe it’s divided by region.

Residential Air-Conditioners | MITSUBISHI HEAVY INDUSTRIES THERMAL SYSTEMS, LTD. (mhi-mth.co.jp)

Mitsubishi HVAC – Heating & Air Conditioning Systems | Mitsubishi Electric (mitsubishicomfort.com)

Still, under the Mitsubishi corporate branding is a truly staggering variety of products ranging from mortgages to ALS treatment drugs, bioplastics to rocket engines, medical implants to roofing materials, cruise ships to nuclear power plants. It’s pretty nuts.

JIHADJOE
JIHADJOE
1 month ago
Reply to  Isaac Fortner

In case anyone is wondering why Mitsubishi was split, the Allies did an anti-trust on the Mitsubishi Zaibatsu post WW2 breaking it up into separate entities. It’s not that Mitsubishi wanted to, but it was forced to.

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