Building a quality name for Toyota Motor Co.
Eiji Toyoda guided Toyota Motor Company into the global automotive market. Born in 1913 in Nagoya, Japan, Toyoda attended the University of Tokyo and graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1936. After graduation, he began working for his cousin Kiichiro at the family company, Toyoda Automatic Loom Works. Kiichiro had recently established an automotive division within the company, and transferred Eiji to the newly formed division, which would later be named Toyota Motor Co.
In 1950, Toyoda traveled to the United States to study automotive production facilities like Ford’s River Rouge Complex. Toyoda was awestruck by the scale of the operations, but saw numerous opportunities for improving production efficiency. He returned to Japan with the desire to create a modern automotive factory utilizing American methods, but with an approach that prioritized quality as well as quantity. Toyoda began developing a concept called Kaizen (continuous improvement) in order to cut production costs while also improving product quality and helped develop a system of parts labeling to expedite production and minimize assembly errors. Toyoda also spearheaded efforts to lead Toyota Motor Co. into the American market during the 1950’s with the introduction of the Toyota Crown. Although the Crown was too underpowered for American highways and ultimately unsuccessful in the U.S., it paved the way for the Corona in 1965. The Corona was the first Japanese car to be engineered specifically for the U.S. market and became highly successful, establishing Toyota as a major competitor in in North America and around the world.
Under Toyoda, Toyota Motor Co. become the world’s third largest automobile manufacturer. Toyoda would serve as president of Toyota Motor Co. from 1967-1981, at which time he stepped down as president and assumed the role of chairman until his retirement in 1994. Toyoda remained active in the company through his later years, and was even instrumental in launching the Lexus luxury brand in 1989. A pragmatic and detail oriented leader, Toyoda led through the belief that “You’ve got to look the future in the eye and step straight ahead.”