Toyota Motor Corporation is a Japanese automotive manufacturer located in Toyota, Aichi, Japan. A multinational corporation and the 14th-largest company in the world by revenue as of January 2014, Toyota was also named the largest automobile manufacturer by production in 2012. The world’s first automobile manufacturer to produce over 10 million vehicles per year, Toyota has remained “part of American life” for 50 years.
Founded by Kiichiro Toyoda in 1937, the company served as the automotive version of his father’s company, Toyota Industries. Its first product, the Type A Engine, was designed in 1934, while its first passenger car, the Toyota AA, was created in 1936. The company name was officially changed to “Toyota” that same year, as it took only “eight brush strokes to complete,” and eight is a lucky number in Japan. The new name was trademarked, and the company officially registered as the Toyota Motor Company in August 1937.
In the 1940s and 1950s Toyota sold small-sized vehicles under the name “Toyopet,” which included the Toyopet SA, Toyopet SB light truck, Toyopet Crown, Toyopet Master, Toyopet Stout light truck and the Toyopet Corona. Toyota made its presence known in the U.S. market in 1957 with the Crown, however the name was not popular with American buyers due to its association with toys and pets. The name was subsequently dropped for American markets.
By the early 1960s the U.S. placed a rigid importation tariff on certain vehicles, which was known as the “chicken tax” of 1964. This 25% tax on light trucks prompted Toyota, Honda Motor Company and Nissan Motor Company to build plants in the U.S. in the 1980s.
A well-established company in the ‘80s, Toyota received the Japanese Quality Control Award, and in 1982 Toyota Motor Company and Toyota Motor Sales merged to form one company, the Toyota Motor Corporation. The company partnered with General Motors two years later and created the New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc., which operates a auto-manufacturing plant in Fremont, California.
At the end of the 1980s Toyota began designing new brands, including the luxury Lexus division in 1989. More large and luxurious vehicles followed, such as the full-sized T100 pickup truck, as well as several SUV lines and the famous Scion brand. The world’s best-selling hybrid vehicle, the Prius, launched in 1997.
Toyota’s European presence inspired the creation of Toyota Motor Europe Marketing and Engineering, which markets vehicles to the continent. The company also set up a permanent base in the United Kingdom due to its popularity among British drivers.
Toyota has continued to thrive in spite of numerous setbacks, including natural disasters such as the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, which created a “severe disruption” in supplier base, production and exports. Today Toyota works with nonprofit organizations in an effort to help others rebuild following natural disasters such as that which devastated New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina.
The Toyota Avalon serves as Toyota’s flagship model, a full-sized, four-door sedan produced in the U.S. The flagship Toyota vehicle in Canada, the Middle East and Puerto Rico in addition to the United States, the car is currently in its fourth generation of manufacture.
Inspired by the Lexus ES, this fourth-generation model debuted in April 2012 at the New York International Auto Show and features an “enhanced facelift” and “bolder grille,” as well as Camry-like redesigned lights. Additional features include a “smooth and powerful” 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 268 hp and 248 lb.-ft. of torque.
Interior features include leather-trimmed seats with French stitching, and tap-touch technology instead of buttons. Safety features include a backup camera, dynamic radar cruise control, Safety Connect, blind spot monitor and automatic high beams.
Toyota currently produces 22 models divided into four primary classes, cars and minivans, hybrids and EVs, trucks, and crossovers and SUVs.
The company’s current line of cars includes the Toyota Yaris (subcompact sedan), Toyota Corolla (compact), Toyota Camry (mid-size sedan), and the Toyota Avalon (full-size sedan).
Toyota’s trucks include the Toyota Tundra (full-size pickup truck) and the Toyota Tacoma (mid-size pickup truck).
Crossover and SUV options include the Toyota RAV4 (compact SUV), Toyota Highlander (mid-size crossover SUV), and the Toyota FJ Cruiser (retro-style SUV with offroad performance features) among others.
Hybrids and EVs include the Toyota Camry Hybrid, Toyota Avalon Hybrid, the Toyota Prius, and more.
Toyota has produced a range of vehicles since 1947, including pickup trucks and jeeps such as the Toyota Briska and the Toyota BJ, respectively. Limited-production models such as the Toyota Classic, a 1996 car inspired by the Toyota AA, is another example. The Toyota AA was the first prototype passenger car created by Toyota.
Toyota’s original name, Toyoda, translates to “fertile rice paddies.” Rather than be associated with old-fashioned farming, the company changed its name.
The Corolla is Toyota’s best-selling nameplate for automobiles around the world, with some 30 million sold to date. Australia was the first company to receive the vehicle from Japan.
Toyota filed 1,000 new patents for the Prius in 2012, which indicates the amount of technology used to design the vehicle.
The company ranked as the third-largest car manufacturer in the world in 2011, following GM and Volkswagen.
Over 80% of Toyotas sold 20 years ago are still operational, a testament to the manufacturer’s dedication to quality.