Toyota is heralded as one of the single best car manufacturers to date.
If you ask most people what they would list as the 5 best car manufacturing companies, Toyota will almost certainly be on that list.
But, how did this come to be? How did a family of farmers rise to become one of the most well-known and respected car manufacturing companies in the world? No, they didn’t win the lottery, or inherit their wealth, or win it playing at an online casino – they saw a need for an affordable car in Japan and went after it – through a lot of hard work and dedication.
Originally, the family’s name was not spelled as ‘Toyota’ but instead as ‘Toyoda’. This original spelling in Japanese roughly translates to ‘fertile rice paddies.” This has to do with their family’s beginnings as farmers.
In the early 1900s, Toyota was a textile company. That refers to making fabrics and such. Toyota’s main claim to fame then was their automatic loom that made the creation of garments cheaper and much faster.
It wouldn’t be until the 1930s that Toyota started to switch into the automobile industry. This was because, in 1929, their patent for the automatic loom was sold to a British company. This income would then be used to spur their automotive endeavors.
Also in 1929, Kiichiro, the son of Toyota’s founder, would travel to Detroit Michigan to observe the booming automotive industry. Here he would learn how the great companies such as Ford made their cars, and use that knowledge back in Japan.
In 1933, the automotive division of Toyota would be created in addition to its textile machines. The first vehicles made by Toyota were the A1 Passenger Car and the G1 Truck later in 1935.
In 1936, the company would run a public contest to have people make logos for them. There were over 20,000 submissions, and the one that was finally chosen had the logo spelled like, ‘Toyoda.”
In April of 1936, Toyota’s first completed car called the AA Passenger Car was released. With a price of only 3,350 Yen, it was cheaper than the imported Ford and General Motors cars that the Japanese were currently using.
Finally, in 1937, the Toyota Motor Company would become its own entity. From here on out, the company would be known as ‘Toyota’ and not ‘Toyoda.’
World War 2
With Toyota starting to make a name for itself, business seemed good. Many customers trusted Toyota because of their great consumer policy.
For one, Toyota has a great warranty. If something on your car broke, you could bring it to Toyota and they would fix it for you.
In addition, they used an ideology called Jidoka when fixing cars. This means that they would ask why after finding something wrong with the car.
For instance, if the engine wouldn’t turn over, they would ask why. If they found it was because the sparker didn’t work, they would ask why it doesn’t again. Then, they might find that it was because of a lack of maintenance by the owner. This allowed Toyota’s mechanics to get to the root of a problem and fix it well.
However, in the 1940s, World War 2 would break out and Toyota would be brought into the war effort. With more and more supplies being needed for the war, Toyota would switch to making trucks for the Japanese military.
The allies were actually planning to bomb the Toyota factories because of their use in aiding the war effort for Japan. This, however, did not happen. The war ended before then, and Toyota was saved by the metaphorical bell.
Restarting of Manufacturing
In 1947, Kiichiro Toyoda started manufacturing civilian cars once again by manufacturing the Toyopet. This was a small-sized vehicle meant for regular use.
They would also go on to make Toyopet SB, the Toyopet Stout, the Toyopet Crown, the Toyopet Master, and the Toyopet Corona. The word “Toyopet” was given to Toyota SA due to its small size during a naming competition.
However, in the American market, these cars were not well received. When the Toyopets began to be sold in America in 1957, they were not well received by the consumers. The name reminded people of ‘toys’ and ‘pets’ and they began to think negatively of the cars.
In other markets, however, the cars were very well received. They continued to be sold throughout the 1960s successfully. In 1958 though, the car was withdrawn from the American market.
Going back a bit, after World War 2, Toyota was on the brink of bankruptcy. Despite being given loans from several banks, they were not doing very well.
In the 1950s, Kiichiro Toyoda had to fire many of his employees in order to try and cut the bill down. However, this mass layoff sparked union uproar and many employees began to protest. Some even called for Kiichiro to step down as CEO, and eventually, he did.
But then along comes the Korean war, and the United States states bought 5,000 vehicles from Toyota. This gives the company the immense economic boost they needed to get them back on their feet and back in the industry.
In 1952, people wanted to reinstate Kiichiro as CEO, and everything was prepared for this to happen. Sadly, he died only a couple of months before he was supposed to be reinstated at the young age of 57.
In the 50s and 60s, Toyota would try multiple times to sell in the American market. The Toyopet Crown was a failure, and it wouldn’t be until the Toyota Corona was introduced that Toyota would find a good foothold in the American market.
With a 90 horsepower engine, automatic transmission, and air conditioning, it was almost everything an American could want in a car. With sales now jumping from around 1,000 to 32,000, Toyota would become one of the most imported car companies in the US.
The 1960s to the Second Millenium
From the 1960s to the early 2000s, things would be relatively smooth sailing for Toyota. They would develop more and more cars while expanding into more markets. For instance, they would start manufacturing plants in the US after strong tariffs are placed on imported trucks, and made a division in Europe after the success of their motor team.
In fact, in the 1980s, Toyota would be awarded its first Japanese Quality Control Award. And this would not be undeserved.
Toyota in an effort to keep pace with big companies like Ford, Toyota would begin to make cars with mass production techniques. Now, with Ford, the mass production would make it so not all of their vehicles were held to the highest quality control.
So, Toyota realized they could nudge in on the market. Since Toyota had about the same level of technology as Ford and the like, they knew they had one way to get a leg up. When Toyota switched to mass production, they would hold their cars to a higher quality control standard.
From here Toyota would do as most car companies do. They began to make more cars and different types of cars all the way up to the 2000s and beyond. They would make money and business would be good.
In fact, from the 1960s until the 2000s, they would rise to become one of the most prolific and largest car companies on Earth!
The Second Millenium and Beyond
The single biggest step forward by Toyota in the 2000s would be the Toyota Prius. It was one of the best hybrid cars on the market, and still is to this day!
Now, it wasn’t the first hybrid car to make its way to US markets, but it was the first to be sold globally. This would make it far more successful for Toyota than just sticking to a single market.
From here, Toyota would continue to try and go “Green”. The company received a lot of criticism because manufacturing Priuses has a larger environmental footprint than other cars.
So, Toyota listened to these criticisms. In fact, they genetically engineered several plant species in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and keep their factories running cleaner.
This clean energy ideal would follow Toyota into the 2010s. Toyota would unveil in 2014 the Toyota Marai. Now, what was so special about the Marai? Well, it was the most efficient hydrogen fuel cell car at the time.
A hydrogen fuel cell is a way to turn water into combustible hydrogen. The Marai was able to turn 13 gallons of water into 11 pounds of hydrogen. This would allow it to travel over 300 miles, which was great mileage for a hydrogen fuel cell car.
Now, what is so great about a hydrogen fuel cell car? What makes it so eco friendly? Well, it has only a single byproduct. It exhausts water! And, according to Toyota, it is clean enough to drink! Although that might not be advisable….
Throughout this story, there have been little bits and pieces that hint at why exactly Toyota is so great. Some of these many people already know, but they are great bonuses nonetheless.
One of these clues that are most obvious is that they try to stay environmentally friendly! This is a huge pro in the eyes of the consumers, and no doubt has improved people’s view of the company.
A second clue is quality control. As stated earlier, Toyota holds its cars to a high standard of quality. They still do today! This is important because people don’t want to buy a dud car that they have to bring to a mechanic every other month.
Clue number three is that Toyota listens to what the consumer wants from a car. When Toyota tried to sell in the American market, it wasn’t received well. So what did they do? They made the changes that Americans wanted to the car! And, then it sold well!
A final clue I would like to put forth is persistence. Toyota has never given up when they have fallen down. When their cars didn’t sell, they made changes and did what they had to.
Persistence is what makes you achieve victory or defeat. Toyota has always been persistent. They will continue to be, and it certainly does not seem that they will be giving up their crown as one of the greatest car manufacturers any time soon.