Eiji Toyoda, who helped transform Toyota Motor Corp into the world’s largest carmaker, has died in Japan at the age of 100.
A cousin of the automaker’s founder, Toyoda joined the company in 1936 – fresh from his graduation from a mechanical engineering degree. He went on to serve as president from 1967 to 1981, and then served as chairman until 1994.
He remained an honourary adviser at Toyota right up until his death. He died at a hospital set up by the Toyota City-based company in 1938 for its factory workers.
A visit to the Ford factory, another family firm, in 1950 inspired Toyoda to transform the manufacturing methods of the Japanese motor company.
In an interview with Time magazine in 1999, Toyoda said that at the time, Ford was making 8,000 units a day compared to Toyota’s 40 – a 200-fold difference.
With the advice of a production specialist Toyoda set about changing the company’s manufacturing approach. Toyota began making cars in small batches, reducing the need to stockpile supplies at the factory.
During his presidency Toyoda oversaw the launch of the Corolla, one of Toyota’s most successful models, and in the late 1980s made the decision to start making cars in the US.
Akio Toyoda, the grandson of Toyota founder Kiichiro Toyoda, is now president of the company.
For the 2013 financial year Toyota saw revenues of 22.1 trillion yen (€167 billion).