It’s easy to agree that a lot has changed over the last half a century. However, one thing that hasn’t is DENSO and our commitment to innovation. From high-quality aftermarket parts and accessories for the automotive, commercial, and heavy-duty markets to portable commercial air conditioning, industrial robots and the invention of QR Code ® technology, the accomplishments of our first 50 years in America are a testament to our focus on the success of our future.
A Rich History Rooted in Excellence
As part of our celebration into our history as an American company, our DENSO team is revisiting some of the highlights of our growth as an organization and national employer.
March 1, 1971
We consider this the official birthday of DENSO in America, as it was when we first incorporated under the name Nippondenso of Los Angeles. Launched in response to the growth of the Japanese car market in the United States, our company started out in a modest office in Hawthorne, California. At the time, we only had about a dozen employees.
Initially, DENSO promoted the sale of air conditioners as an option for vehicles built in Japan. Demand for the units was so high that, within a year, we started manufacturing A/C kits for Toyota’s North American operations.
Back then, we were already the world’s most car-dependent country and demand for service parts was soaring. American consumers were growing increasingly smitten with Japanese cars, so we expanded our inventory to offer replacement parts, such as ACCEL spark plugs in the aftermarket.
Business continued to boom, prompting us to move to our current campus in Long Beach. That year, we also launched MovinCool, dedicated to sales of DENSO’s portable commercial air conditioning units. The highly successful product line was developed to cool production workers at our own auto parts factories in Japan.
DENSO named our first woman vice president in global company history. We’re proud to have carried this spirit of diversity and inclusion throughout all of our growth since.
During this year, we launched DENSO Robotics to market high-performance industrial robots, another product line we pioneered to support our own manufacturing needs. Today, companies around the globe rely on DENSO’s advanced robotic technology for electronics, pharmaceuticals, biomedical devices, food processing, aerospace, technology, and many other products and industries that require precision manufacturing.
The Late 90’s to the Late 2000’s Our commitment to the automotive aftermarket and introduction to the motorsports industry really blossomed over the span of these two decades. In 1998, we entered into a multi-year, associate-level sponsorship with Ken Schrader’s #33 SKOAL Winston Cup race car providing both product and technical support of our spark plug product line.
In 2001, we launched our aftermarket brand DENSO First Time Fit® in the U.S. The First Time Fit® brand has grown over the decades and today, in addition to air conditioning components and spark plugs, our aftermarket automotive product lines for cars and trucks include alternators and starters; condensers and radiators; direct ignition coils; engine management sensors; evaporators; air, cabin and oil filters; fuel pumps; ignition wire sets; oxygen and air/fuel sensors; relays; tire pressure monitoring system sensors; and wiper blades.
The remainder of the 00’s would see us foster relationships within numerous motorsports enterprises. From team sponsorships within CART (Championship Auto Racing Teams) and the IRL (Indy Racing League); Motorcross, Supercross and the AMA (American Motorcyclist Association); as well as the NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) and the IDRC (Import Drag Racing Circuit); to multi-year sponsorships with the NMRA (National Mustang Racing Association) and the NMCA (National Muscle Car Association), where we served as title sponsor and presenting sponsor, respectively. We closed out the decade serving as the Official Fuel Pump and contingency sponsor for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup series from 2006-2008.
We added Automated Data Capture (ADC), the Americas’ sales arm of DENSO Wave Inc., inventor of the Secure QR Code® (SQRC). DENSO ADC supplies QR Code® technology products, scanners, terminals and software to many industries that include retail and commercial; manufacturing and warehousing; healthcare and medical; transportation and logistics; and events and entertainment.
2010’s to Today
Our motorsports involvement continued to grow in the early 2010s through driver and team support and sponsorship. Some of our longest-standing relationships began around this time: our support of the NMRA’s two-time open comp national champion, Larry Geddes dates back to 2008, and we’ve been an associate sponsor to NHRA’s Clay Millican, the pilot of our customer Parts Plus’s Top Fuel Dragster team since 2011. Both relationships continue today.
In 2016, we signed on as title sponsor of the DENSO Spark Plug NHRA Four-Wide Nationals. Our ongoing entitlement with NHRA has allowed us to foster several sponsorships within the series. What started as product support for sportsman racer Dan Fletcher, the KB Racing/Summit Racing duo of Jason Line (now retired) and Greg Anderson, and the 3-bike pro stock motorcycle team of 4x World Champion, Matt Smith Racing (which includes himself, wife Angie Smith and team rider, Scotty Pollacheck), has evolved into some of our most valuable sponsorships today.
In 2018, we extended our support of NHRA drag racing with the development of the DENSO Spark Plugs 200MPH Club for the pro stock motorcycle class. The club honors the first 8 riders who surpass the 200MPH barrier. Members of the club currently include (in order of accomplishment): Hector Arana, Jr – entered in March 2018; Eddie Krawiec – entered in July 2018; Matt Smith – entered in November 2018; Scotty Pollacheck – entered in September 2020; Angie Smith – entered October 2020, and Angelle Sampey – entered March 2021.
Today, our NHRA driver and team sponsorships continue and our product support of the sportsman, pro stock car, and pro stock motorcycle classes continues to grow. Additionally, 2021 brings us a re-introduction to NASCAR in the Camping World Truck Series as an associate sponsor on Derek Kraus’s #19 NAPA AutoCare / NAPA Auto Parts Toyota.
Where We Stand After Fifty Years
So, what are our plans after we finish celebrating fifty years? Well, much like our race teams and customers who choose our products, we’re not looking to slow down one bit!
Our company currently employs about 550 people in three countries. In addition to our Long Beach headquarters, we have manufacturing operations in Murrieta, California; regional sales offices in Plano, Texas, and West Chester, Ohio; warehouses in Rancho Cucamonga, California, and Jeffersonville, Indiana; and a technology center in Jermyn, Pennsylvania. In Mexico and Canada, DENSO has sales offices in Mexico City, a distribution center in Nuevo León, and sales staff in Guelph in the greater Toronto region.