Member of Toyota's founding family;
Born: September 12, 1913; Died: September 17, 2013.
Eiji Toyoda, who has died aged 100, was a member of the car manufacturer Toyota's founding family who helped create the super-efficient Toyota Way production method. He served as president of the company from 1967 to 1982, engineering Toyota's growth into a global carmaker, became chairman in 1982, and continued in advisory positions up to his death.
A cousin of the founder of the company, Eiji Toyoda was born in Nagoya in central Japan, studied mechanical engineering at the University of Tokyo, and started with the family firm in the 1930s on the shop floor. The company was originally a textile manufacturer but when Mr Toyoda's uncle Sakichi invented an automatic loom and sold it around the world it enabled the family to pursue their dream of car manufacturing.
Mr Toyoda's first project in car manufacturing was the Toyota A1 sedan and in 1937, he was put in charge of building the company's first headquarters at Koromo, a town near Nagoya. So important did the plant become to the community that in the 1950s it was renamed Toyota City.
He became managing director in 1950 and after observing what he saw as Ford's wasteful plants in the United States, set out to perfect what became known as the Toyota Way to eliminate waste from the production process. Stock was tightly controlled and the practice of kaizen was developed - an attempt to involve all the staff in a process of continuous improvement. It worked and virtually all waste was eliminated
The company first tried to break into the international market in the 1950s but it was met with design problems and resistance from customers who still thought of Japan as the old Second World War enemy. Mr Toyoda fixed the first problem with the Corolla, which has become one of the best-selling cars of all time, and, as the second problem started to fade, Toyota grew to become the biggest car manufacturer in the world.
During his years at the helm, Mr Toyoda also pushed Toyota to develop luxury vehicles, which later became the Lexus brand.
One of Japan's most respected businessmen, he was also one of the main figures to forge Toyota's partnership with General Motors. He helped set up a joint plant in Fremont, California, called NUMMI, New United Motor Manufacturing, in 1984. NUMMI closed in 2010. He stepped down as chairman in 1994 and continued in an advisory role right until his death.
He is survived by his three sons, Kanshiro, Tetsuro and Shuhei, all executives at Toyota affiliates.
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