Mysterious silhouette of a man with a question mark on his head

Who is Toyota?

These days, the name Toyota is so synonymous with cars that it’s hard to imagine it as the name of a person. The name did come from a real human being, however. Who actually is the “Toyota” behind Toyota?


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Kiichiro Toyoda: The Man Behind the Brand

Toyota as we know it was founded by a man named Kiichiro Toyoda. His father, Sakichi Toyoda, founded Toyoda Loom Works. Kiichiro, however, was the one who changed the company’s focus from the manufacture of automatic looms to the manufacture of automobiles. This is what lead to the behemoth that is Toyota Motor Corporation.

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The man himself: Toyota Motor Corporation founder Kiichiro Toyoda.

How did Toyota start?

Kiichiro Toyoda was born on June 11, 1894 in Shizuoka, Japan. He was raised by his grandparents. After graduating from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Tokyo Imperial University, Toyoda returned to his hometown and joined the company founded by his father. He then spent some time travelling to Europe and the United States to learn more about the spinning and weaving industry.

On his travels, Toyoda was inspired by the burgeoning automobile industry, in which he (rightfully, we now know) saw a great deal of potential. On his return to Japan, he established the automobile manufacturing department of Toyota Industries Corporation.

This move is said to have opened the path for the Japanese to enter the automobile industry. The company eventually became focused primarily on automobiles and saw success. There were some struggles during World War II, but things again picked up after the war.

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When did Kiichiro Toyoda leave Toyota?

On June 5, 1950, Kiichiro announced that he would resign as president of Toyota. After his retirement, Kiichiro created a laboratory at his home in Okamoto, Setagaya, Tokyo. In that lab, he worked at efforts to design a small helicopter. Unfortunately, this work was cut short when he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage in March of 1952, causing his death at the age of 57.

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