Thursday 27th March 1952
Kiichiro Toyoda (57) Japanese industrialist and founder of the Toyota Motor Corporation died. He was the son of famed inventor and entrepreneur Sakichi Toyoda, and the driving force behind establishment of Toyota Motor Corporation. As a young man he studied engineering at the University of Tokyo, then traveled to England, where he worked at Platt Brothers and Company, a leading manufacturer of textile machinery. He later came to the United States, where he studied American manufacturing techniques. After returning to Japan he worked at his father’s loom-making business, Toyoda Industries Corporation, where he engineered improvements to the looms’ high-draft spinning frames, and patented a carding machine. He began his research into automotives by dismantling and reassembling an imported motorcycle, and briefly considered the feasibility of a charcoal-powered engine. After his father’s death, he convinced Toyoda Industries’ new president, his adoptive brother Risaburo Toyoda, to fund research into auto-making. Kiichiro Toyoda purchased a new Chevrolet and brought in several of Japan’s top engineers to disassemble and reassemble it. By 1934 Toyoda and his team had designed and built their first gasoline-powered engine, and convinced stockholders to fully fund his new division. In 1935 Toyoda built the prototype for its first car, combining Japanese components with Ford and Chevy parts under a Chrysler body to construct what they called Model A1. According to legend, Kiichiro Toyoda drove the prototype to his father’s gravesite, to show what he had accomplished.Toyoda vehicles were manufactured beginning in July 1935, and in 1936 the spelling of the nameplate was altered from Toyoda to Toyota, as Toyoda himself believed the new name was easier to pronounce (the family name, when presented in English, remains Toyoda). The auto division was quickly successful and was spun off as a separate business, the Toyota Motor Corporation, in 1937, with Toyoda as Vice President. He became president in 1941, but in 1950, with the business near bankruptcy in Japan’s post-war recession, Toyota Motor Corp announced massive layoffs and its workers went on strike. To settle the strike, Toyoda and other top executives tendered their resignations, and Toyoda died two years later.