A Brief History Of Toyota

In July of 2012, the Toyota Motor Company reported that they had manufactured their 200 millionth vehicle. They employ over 300,000 employees worldwide and are number eleven of the richest companies in the world. Toyota has come a long way from their humble origins as a loom company.

The Founding
In the year 1924, Sakichi Toyoda invented a model of automatic loom that operated on the principle of Jidoka. Jidoka is a system whereby if a problem is detected with the system, it shuts down automatically to prevent further failures or injuries. Five years later, in 1929, the patent for the loom was sold to gather funds for the company. Those funds were used another four years later, in 1933, to create an offshoot division of the Toyoda Automatic Loom Company that specialized in vehicles. The offshoot division split off into its own company in 1937, and the "Toyoda" company was born.

Issues over the name were immediate. A logo was created, but the characters that make up the name "Toyoda" were more complicated than those for "Toyota” were. Toyoda also had several negative connotations -- a literal meaning relating to farming, for one -- that made the change to Toyota more appealing. August of the year the company was founded, their name was cemented as Toyota.

World War II
World War II was hard on the newly created Toyota Motor Company. Materials were in short supply, so very few vehicles were produced. Many of the trucks that were produced, in fact, had plywood side panels rather than any form of metal. While the vehicles did play a part in the war, the company was not very successful.

Toyota was able to resume their production of civilian vehicles at the end of 1946 and into 1947. They released small cars at first. These cars were built for two purposes -- first to handle the largely unpaved roads of Japan, and second for good fuel economy. These small vehicles were named the Toyopet line, and sold quite well in Japan.

Unfortunately, when both Nissan and Toyota debuted in America, neither company fared well. To the average American, a full-sized vehicle was far more appealing than the small cars that the foreign companies made. Toyota recorded under a thousand Toyopets sold in 1958, their debut year.

Advancing on America in the 1960s and 1970s
In 1964, Toyota gave America another try with the Corona, known in Japan as the crown. It sold for two thousand dollars, and was capable of a comfortable 90 miles per hour on the American road infrastructure. Also in 1964, however, America began adding high taxes on the import of foreign vehicles. One of these taxes reached up to a full 25 percent. In response, Toyota and many other foreign automakers began building domestic plants.

Toyota fought each step of the way with Volkswagen, a giant in the industry. In 1965, they sold a mere 6,400 vehicles. By three years later in 1968, those sales had risen to 71,000. Three years after that, in 1971, Toyota was selling as many as 300,000 cars a year. Even so, they were a very niche market. Muscle cars and powerful vehicles were in style, and economic small cars like the Toyota models were largely ignored in comparison.

In 1973 this began to change. The oil embargo went a long way towards driving American interest away from muscle cars and towards smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles. This came to a head in 1978, when fuel shortages forced people to examine these small sized cars. While American automakers considered small cars to be an introductory product and consequently built them with substandard quality, Toyota pushed out new models of the Corona, Corolla and Celica to compete.

The 1980s and 1990s
Many of the other import vehicles and domestic manufacturers suffered in the wake of America turning away from large, powerful cars. Toyota took advantage of this weakness by releasing their own larger luxury cars with their same level of quality. These cars are the Lexus line, which started life in 1989.

The 1990s saw a wide expansion in Toyota's lineup, always taking advantage of gaps in the market and reasonable American demand. By the end of the decade, Toyota was producing full-sized pickups like the Tundra, a variety of SUVs and even the sporty Scions aimed at a younger target audience. In 1997, the even created the best-selling hybrid in the world, the Prius.

The New Millennium
The Toyota Motor Company has taken several blows in the last decade, however. 2001 saw the beginning of a banking and financial crisis in Japan, and Toyota was heavily affected due to their current chairman being deeply involved. The company was listed as one of the few biggest losers in Japan in terms of money. Still, this did not stop them from collaborating with a French group to begin producing cars in France.

In 2005, Toyota was listed number 8 of the richest companies in the world. However, the steady decline of the world economy in general and the auto industry in particular hit them hard. Despite being number one in automobile sales in 2008, by 2011 they were number 55 on the same list of rich companies.

Toyota has recovered handily, as evidenced by their position in the top 15 richest companies in the world once again. While they are not yet in the top spots as they once were, they are positioned well to move into the future. They have a wide range of vehicles on offer, from small compacts and hybrids to full size trucks and SUVs, with arms in sports vehicles and even Formula One racing.

As the world's gas prices continue to rise, Toyota's history of producing high-quality and highly fuel efficient cars will serve them well. Their line of best-selling hybrids will undoubtedly take the forefront in coming years, as people shift away from the larger and less efficient vehicles as they did in the 1970s gas crises.

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