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The Toyota Story

Japanese genius, Sakichi Toyoda, a relentless inventor, created the Toyoda Automatic Loom Company from which the Toyota Motor Company grew as an extension. The company was supported by the Japanese government because of the military applications of its products and because the country wanted to be more self reliant by depending on domestic production. By 1936, after successfully producing vehicles commercially, Japan stopped nearly all car imports and relied solely on locally made vehicles.

Kiichiro Toyoda, Sakichi Toyoda’s son was made responsible for car operations, and they started tinkering with two cylinder engines at first then chose to use a modified Chevrolet 65-horsepower straight-six engine. Toyota’s first engine rolled off the factory in 1934, the first vehicles in1935, and by 1937, Toyota Motor Company split off from Toyoda.

Only 1,757 cars were made from 1936 to 1943. Toyoda had better success building trucks and buses. The first Toyota truck was a one-ton and a half design, using a clone of the Chevrolet engine. After the war, the United States military allowed Toyota to start peacetime production. Toyota utilized the industrial training program it learned from the American War Department and practiced kaizen (continuous improvement), and lean manufacturing around it.

After the war, Toyota successfully introduced several cars including the Toyopet, a cheap model that could handle rough roads. By 1955, Toyota was making 8,400 cars per year, and by 1965, close to 600,000 cars per year. Toyota had also started producing a civilian truck—the Land Cruiser, a design similar to Jeeps but with a bigger engine. Toyota had also started making its first luxury car, the Crown, followed by the Corona. >From 700 cars in 1955, the number swelled to 50,000 per month in 1964. By 1957, Toyota started exporting vehicles to the U.S. and established its headquarters in Hollywood.

In 1959, the company opened its first overseas plant, in Brazil. From that point on, Toyota’s operations always focused on localizing the production and design of its products. This setup allows for a harmonious symbiotic relationship between Toyota and its local suppliers and market. It also builds up the local labor force.

By 1964, the Toyota Corona was sold—a sedan with a good balance of performance, comfort and petrol mileage. By 1967, Toyota introduced the Crown, popular for its road manners, smooth ride, and quiet interior. Toyota also brought the famous and rare 2000GT to the U.S., styled like a British sports car with a massive hood and nearly no cabin or trunk. The company also had a range of trucks for sale in the late 1960s.

America’s favorite small car, the Corolla was imported in 1969. It was the first Toyota built in the United States in 1985, in a joint venture with General Motors.

In the 1980s, most of the luxury cars in the market were suffering from quality problems and it was the perfect time for Toyota to introduce a luxury brand. Lexus was test marketed in 1985 and 1986, and by 1987 the final design was approved. The LS400, the first Lexus rolled off the showrooms in 1989. Featuring high luxury and better reliability at a lower cost than Mercedes and similar other luxury models, Lexus beat its competitors decisively. Lexus remained the market leader in passenger car comfort and reliability up to the 21st century.

Toyota also instituted a three year 36,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty starting in 1988 for all of the vehicles it sells.

In April 2002, Toyota adopted four long term policies centered on the basic theme of innovation into the future. Four key themes based on this are the orientation toward a recycle-oriented society, toward the age of IT and ubiquitous networks, toward a mature society (respectful change of ideas), and toward motorization on a global scale.

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