As the saying goes, better late than never. In what may be considered a long overdue honor, Kiichiro Toyoda, the founder of what would eventually become Toyota Motor Corporation, has been inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Michigan.
“Kiichiro Toyoda embodied the foresight and innovation that few people in history possess, demonstrated by his significant contributions to the automotive industry,” said Ramzi Hermiz, president and CEO, Shiloh Industries and board chairman, Automotive Hall of Fame. “We are honored to include him in the 2018 induction class to the Automotive Hall of Fame.”
Kiichiro was the son of Sakichi Toyoda, a Japanese inventor and industrialist who revolutionized the textile industry when he created an automatic loom that would stop by itself when a problem occurred. Born on June 11, 1894, the younger Toyoda joined his father in the family business–Toyoda Shoten, which manufactured looms and would eventually become today’s Toyota Industries–by the 1920s, filing his own patents that would complement’s the company’s automatic looms.
In 1929, the younger Toyoda went to the United States and Europe to negotiate patent assignments for the company’s looms. It was also during these trips that Kiichiro’s interest in the automobile industry was piqued. By May 1930, Kiichiro began looking into the feasibility of the family business expanding into the automotive industry and by October of the same year, built what would be the first prototype of a small Toyota engine. As fate would have it though, the older Toyoda died on October 30 of that same year, and did not see the younger Toyoda establish the Automobile Production Division within the Toyoda Automatic Loom Works on September 1, 1933.
In January 1934, Toyoda Automatic Loom Works decided to enter the automobile industry and by March, the Automobile Division’s prototype plant was completed, with the engine for what would be its first production car, the Toyoda A-type automobile, finished in September. Eight months later on May 1935, the Toyoda Model A1 prototype passenger car was completed followed by the first Toyoda Model G1 Truck prototype in August. On April 1936, production of the Toyoda Model AA passenger car commenced.
In August 28, 1937, the Automobile Production Division was spun off into a separate company, Toyota Motor Co., Ltd.. Despite starting the automotive business though, Kiichiro Toyoda was only the second president of Toyota Motor Corporation, from January 1941 until July 18, 1950. The honor of being the carmaker’s first president belongs to Risaburo Toyoda, Kiichiro’s brother-in-law, with Kiichiro installed as the vice-president.
“America was a special place for Kiichiro,” said Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corporation in a statement. “He was amazed by the prevalence of automobiles driving around U.S. cities in the late 1920s, and that was the catalyst for his determination to establish an automotive industry in his home country. As a successor and his grandson, I am very grateful and proud that Kiichiro has been inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in America. Kiichiro boldly changed Toyota’s business model from automatic looms to automobiles without being constrained by previous successes. As his induction comes at a time when our industry is facing profound changes, I believe his message today would be to work hard to help the industry revolutionize the future of mobility, even if success is not immediate. I deeply appreciate the Automotive Hall of Fame for inducting my grandfather and our founder.”
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