Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Born into a family of textile manufacturers, Eiji Toyoda studied engineering at Tokyo Imperial University from 1933 to 1936. During this time Toyoda's cousin Kiichiro established an automobile plant at the Toyoda Automatic Loom Works. Toyoda joined his cousin in the plant at the conclusion of his degree. In 1936 the company changed its name from Toyoda Automatic Loom Works to Toyota, and its first cars rolled off the production line that year, built from General Motors parts and components.
Japan’s entry into World War 2 in 1941 required that Toyota’s production capacity was redirected towards the manufacture of trucks for Japanese imperial forces. At the conclusion of the war, Toyoda expected the occupational force's restrictions on zaibatsu to affect Toyota. Instead, Japan's reconstruction required the Toyota car plant to build vehicles to assist in this task. Despite the boost in production, Toyota was close to insolvency in the immediate post-war period, and was spared dissolution by massive workforce reductions.
Toyoda visited Ford’s plant at Dearborn, Michigan during the early 1950s. Toyota had been in the business of the manufacture of cars for 13 years at this stage, and had produced just over 2,500 automobiles. The Ford plant in contrast manufactured 8,000 vehicles a day. Toyoda decided to adopt US automobile mass production methods.
In 1960 Toyota proposed a joint venture with Ford to manufacture automobiles in Japan. The original proposal was for a 40-40-20 deal, with 20 percent ownership allocated for the distributor in Japan. That was later increased to allow Ford 50 percent, but again the deal was rejected for a variety of reasons. Eiji Toyoda said that "Ford's method of turning us down left a lot to be desired." Toyota attempted again in 1980, shortly before the Reagan administration imposed voluntary restraint agreements on Japanese auto imports.
Toyota then proposed joint production of automobiles in the United States. "We attempted to form ties with Ford on a total of four occasions before and after the war, and in each case nothing came of our efforts," Toyoda wrote. "I suppose that we were never meant to become partners." In 2001, Ford CEO Jacques Nasser met with Toyota CEO Hiroshi Okuda and proposed a joint venture between the two companies in small car production.
In 1983, NUMMI (New United Motor Manufacturing) was opened as a joint venture with General Motors and produces the Corolla and vehicles based on it. In 1987, Toyota opened its first wholly-owned North American plant in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada. The following year, Toyota's first wholly-owned U.S. plant opened in Georgetown, Kentucky. Toyota added another U.S. plant in 1998 in Princeton, Indiana, and is scheduled to open another plant in San Antonio, Texas in 2006.
By 1955, Toyota had started mass producing the Crown, which was a success in Japan, but had little impact on the US market upon its introduction in 1957. By the 1960s, however, Toyota Coronas and Corollas had achieved substantial market penetration in the US. By 1975 Toyota had replaced Volkswagen as the number one imported car in the United States.
Toyoda stepped down as president of Toyota in 1994.
- “Toyota-fifty years in motion”, Eiji Toyoda, Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1987.
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