This is the great history of a company which starts from a family of inventors involved in the loom industry to a multinational brand recognized through the entire world.
Sakichi Toyoda, Kiichiro Toyoda father’s, born in Yamaguchi the 14th February 1867 read a book that inspired him. This book was the translated version of Samuel Smiles “Self-Help” and focus on inventions and inventor’s persistent behaviour. Therefore this was a starting point from which Sakichi could draw inspiration to design innovative looming machines and mechanisms. In 1898 the No 3173 “Power Loom” was the first patented machine capable of producing cotton to a high quality standard thanks to a device that prevented the machine from damaging the cloth. Also other devices like, tensioner controller, warp and weft halting devices thought to maintain constant tension and also to stop the machine when the warp thread broke or ran out. The Power Loom was highly recognized for the seamless workflow that didn’t need to be constantly supervised in order to avoid any imperfections to the fabric. At the beginning of the 1900 “The king of inventor’s” evolved the reciprocating motion of steam engine’s pistons to circular motion to an extent that led into the single flow motor patent. On the other hand his second patent on the circular loom machine featured a system that reduced noises and energy losses. In 1907 after Shimasaki-cho plant had an investment to restructure the company in a stock corporation, with one million yen of capital, the new Toyoda Loom Company was established.
At the end of the First World War the 10th march 1918, Toyoda created a new company named Kiki Boshoku from Toyoda Boshoku Corporation in two months, in order to expand production during wartime production reconversion. Supported and encouraged by his father into designing machines from which society could benefit Kiichiro Toyoda initially starts working in Toyoda Boshoku factory continuing the development of the shuttle change automatic looms. Within a year in 1924 the prototypes had been tested with a production target of 200 machines but only with new features to be patented. This was because Sakichi first patents were sold for 80.000 yen therefore those designs could no longer be utilized by Toyoda.
In November 1925, the automatic loom model “G” was introduced. The machine produced by Boshoku’s Kariya plant featured limit precision gauges to check dimensional tolerances and was also compatible and interchangeable with other machine’s components. Then production enlarge the capacity from 300 to 1000 units per month in march 1927, thanks to the acquisition on new moulding machines, high quality casting, and electric furnaces. The same progression in production capacity will be showed later in the automotive history. Due to the 1929 great depression, the cotton drop in demand, BoShoku was included into Toyoda Boshoku and changed into Toyoda Boshoku Minami Plant in 1931. Moreover the high draft spinning machine re-launched the TALW into profits. Later in 1943 Toyota Motor Corporation switches into Aircraft Aichi Plant.
The starting point…
The first September 1923 the Great Kanto Earthquake, diffused destruction in all the surroundings Kanto’s cities and rural areas. In this event vehicles replaced the devastated railway system and saved many lives. Trucks also helped for the reconstruction and vehicles now started to serve a very useful function instead of the previous concept of leisure luxury items. Straightaway the U.S. was providing to the Japanese market cars at a very competitive price with quick order delivery of three month wait, in half the time required by an actual European brand to deliver. In 1929 28.087 vehicles were imported. Kiichiro saw the potential to fill a gap in a market lacking in competition and ten years later in 1933 founded the “Automotive Production Division” department within Toyoda Automatic Loom Works Ltd. For 1932 Chuyko Detroit Project different companies made different components to be assembled together in a prototype called “Atsuta”, in which the Toyoda Motor Company took part by making cast parts. Also all the patents rights, that year were sold at one million yen with the only constraint to use them in the automotive field. Therefore Kiichiro went to visit America’s production plants to investigate and went back to his country after having bought the required machines for production. More determined than ever to pursue his father dream when his father died the 30th October 1930. After having bought a 1934 Chrysler De Soto he starts to dismantle and analyse the car in every single component, his goal was to produce a prototype capable to fit parts in common with Ford and Chevrolet vehicles which were very common in Japan at that time. The same year the capital rose from one million to three million yen, giving the possibility to expand activities into steelmaking and aircraft construction. In May the same year cast parts of the engine’s main components were fabricated. Engine block crankcase and cylinder head were Toyoda design, the internal components like con-rods pistons camshafts valves and plugs were Chrysler components. Moreover where this the bodywork took only one and a half years to develop because was based on De Soto’s exterior design. One year later in May 1935 the new “A1” vehicle was presented. Was a new design sharing Chrysler’s components, but the high price for the market in that period, displaced the “A1” in a luxury segment.
Toyoda Automatic Loom Works, Ltd. started in 1935 the “G1” truck and with the same principle as above started to draw knowledge from a 1934 Ford truck and therefore develop their own design of the chassis and by installing the engine “A” developed from the passenger car. The G1 went on sale in November the same year for 3.200 yen but without sales plans. A month later a partnership with G.M. and Chrysler allowed Toyoda vehicles to be sold in the well-known dealer showrooms. In 1936 Toyoda changed into Toyota to improve badge’s graphics and pronunciation.
By improving on GA truck and A1 car designs the next evolution models in replacement were called GA and AA respectively. In 1942 Toyota due to the recession asked 1600 workers to resign. But two years later in Koromo’s factory production restarted. Ten years later after Kiichiro Toyoda death his cousin Eiji Toyoda started to design the first Toyota vehicle and to improve on the technological level of Japan’s automotive history. Therefore Taiichi Ohno in charge to optimize the production plant processes, which at that time where inefficient.
In 1957 Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. was established and the new Toyopet Crown was retailed through the first dealers in Hollywood, California but sales were unsuccessful due to overheating issues and fuel/oil related consumptions. Shoichiro Toyoda then addressed the problems by specifically design a vehicle for American roads. Also he determined the Toyota quality control, process which will help to export vehicles into different markets.
Firstly the “Corona” was sold in America then in 1966 the emerging Toyota Corolla was also destined to the European markets. After the 70’s oil crisis, Toyota started to build national assembly sites in order to cope with the increasing request and to save shipping costs by exporting only from Japan.
In collaboration with GM in 1984 the “New united motor manufacturing” was founded than four years later the first own Toyota motor manufacturing Kentucky started production. In Canada the same year production of the Corolla and Camry Solara were started in the new Toyota motor manufacturing Canada. Then at the end of the 80’s the luxury brand “Lexus” was created and recognized for its innovations.
At the beginning of the 90’ the yen currency vale increased causing problems in the export business. The organization took action by improving still localized production and to develop specific models for targeted markets and local plants. In 1992 a new plant was built in U.K.
In 2001 Toyota sales in North America reached two million units per year and in Europe two thirds of a million.
One of the best modern vehicles incorporating Hybrid technology is the Prius and the Camry which has already been established in the market and prove successful since his development in 1997.
But all of this couldn’t be successful without these three main strategies that had been adopted:
Just in time production ( Plan exactly what is needed and when is needed along the assembly line)
Localized production (Part of a global expansion program was to build factories in nations with presence of market’s demand)
Toyota way (Continuous innovation and respect for people)
Kanban System (To deliver barcoded components along the labelled production line at the right time without any margin of error and inefficiencies)
Toyota Motor Corporation “The global story” JSP Creative Production video, Developed and produced by University of Toyota
Copyright Toyota motor sales U.S.A. Inc. (2002)
Toyota Motor Corporation “Just-in-time” Philosophy of complete elimination of waste
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Toyota Motor Corporation (2012) 75 years of Toyota “Ever better cars” site:
Japanese nostalgic car: “Jay Leno drives Toyota’s 1936 model AA”
Posted the 26th October 2012 by Ben