Eiji Toyoda was a Japanese industrialist. He was largely responsible for bringing Toyota Motor Corporation to profitability and worldwide prominence during his tenure as president and later, as chairman.
Eiji Toyoda Early Life
- Eiji Toyoda was born on September 12, 1913, in Kinjo, Nishi Kasugai, Aichi, Japan, the son of Heikichi and Nao Toyoda.
- Toyoda’s uncle, Sakichi, founded the original family business, Toyoda Automatic Loom Works, in 1926 in Nagoya, about 200 miles west of Tokyo, Japan.
- The family was so involved in the business that Eiji’s father Heikichi (younger brother of Sakichi) even made his home inside the spinning factory.
- Such an early exposure to machines and business would have a significant effect on Toyoda’s life.
- Toyoda studied mechanical engineering at Tokyo Imperial University from 1933 to 1936.
Eiji Toyoda Automobile Factory
- Sakichi ultimately sold the patents for his design to an English firm for two hundred fifty thousand dollars, at a time when textiles was Japan’s top industry and used the money to pay for his eldest son, Kiichiro’s venture into auto making in the early 1930s.
- Soon his cousin Kiichiro established an automobile plant at the Toyoda Automatic Loom Works in the city of Nagoya in central Japan.
- Toyoda joined his cousin in the plant at the conclusion of his degree and throughout their lives they shared a deep friendship.
- In 1938, Kiichiro asked Eiji to oversee construction of a newer factory about 32 km east of Nagoya on the site of a red pine forest in the town of Koromo, later renamed Toyota City.
- The company was a relative newcomer to the auto business in Japan.
- Eiji worked on the A1 prototype, the forerunner of the company’s first production model. This sedan has six-cylinder engine that borrowed heavily from Detroit automotive technology. It also resembled the radically styled Chrysler Airflow model of that period.
Eiji Toyoda Manufacturing Improvement
- During those early years, Toyoda gained lots of hands-on experience. In 1967, Toyoda was named president of Toyota Motor Company. He became the first family member to assume that post since Kiichiro resigned in 1950.
- Toyoda visited Ford River Rouge Complex at Dearborn, Michigan during the early 1950s. He was awed by the scale of the facility but dismissive of what he saw as its inefficiencies.
- Due to this experience, Toyoda decided to adopt American automobile mass production methods but with a qualitative twist.
- He has three main objectives: keeping inventory to an absolute minimum through a system called kanban, or “just in time;” insuring that each step of the assembly process is performed correctly the first time; and cutting the amount of human labour that goes into each car.
- Toyoda accomplished for Toyota Motor was a dazzling success at a time when Detroit automakers were struggling to stay profitable.
- Toyota, Japan’s number one automaker, spearheaded the tidal wave of small, low-priced cars. These cars swept the United States after successive energy crises in the mid and late-1970s.
Eiji Toyoda Achievement
- A year later, the two branches of the company were unified in the new Toyota Motor Corporation. Eiji Toyoda became chairman and Shoichiro Toyoda became president and chief executive officer.
- The Toyodas led their company to a record in 1984. Toyota sold an all-time high 1.7 million vehicles in Japan and the same number overseas and profits peaked at $2.1 billion in 1985.
- Appointed the fifth president of Toyota Motor, Toyoda went on to become the company’s longest serving chief executive thus far.
- In 1981, he stepped down as president and assumed the title of chairman. Shoichiro Toyoda succeeded him as president.
- In 1983, as chairman, Eiji decided to compete in the luxury car market, which culminated in the 1989 introduction of Lexus. Toyoda stepped down as chairman of Toyota in 1994 at the age of 81.
Eiji Toyoda Death
- In his later years, his family hospitalized Toyoda for his hip problems. He remained wheelchair-bound for a time, yet remained affable and smiling in interviews. Retaining a clear mind into his 90s, he enjoyed tackling sudoku puzzles.
- Five days after his 100th birthday, Toyoda died of heart failure in the Toyota Memorial Hospital on 17 September 2013.