How Big Is Toyota? How Cotton Weaving Gave Rise To The World's Largest Automobile Maker

Fridah Wangechi | 1 year ago
Toyota founder Kiichiro Toyoda, who transformed the weaving business to the automotive manufacturing. FILE

The story of Toyota is a story of love of a son for his mother in Japan, who was determined to make her life easier especially during a time when the world was on the path to economic transformation, with the industrial revolution gaining momentum in various fields.

In the late 1800s, a young Sakichi Toyoda who was employed at his father's carpentry shop arrived home one day after a long day's work and observed how difficult it was for his mother to weave textiles at her manual machine, as at the time the motorized textile machine was yet to be invented and he decided that he would embark on learning how to make one for her.

This did not sit well with his father as he dedicated all his work time to the project, owing to the many trials and errors in designs for the textile machine. He was finally successful in 1898 when he submitted his first patent for the Toyoda power loom. It used a one-horse power motor becoming Japan's first-ever power loom, attracting the attention of cotton weavers in the country for its ability to produce high-quality cotton.

The success of the power loom attracted local investors, who funded Sakichi in his quest to create his Toyoda Automatic Loom Works industry in 1926, where he invented and innovated numerous textile-focused automated weaving devices. He is credited with the invention of the automatic power loom in which he implemented the principle of Jidoka (autonomous automation), which means that the machine would stop itself when a problem occured, which became later a part of the Toyota Production System.

Sakichi who earned the title of the Japanese 'Father of Industrial Revolution' had made quite a name for himself, attracting British textile giants, the Platt Brothers, who bought the production and sales rights for the loom. He then gave the proceeds to his son, Kiichiro, and asked him to invest in the automotive industry, who then channeled the funds into the invention of the first-ever passenger car in 1936, the Toyoda Model AA.

Kiichiro in the following year founded the Toyota Motor Company, opting to change the name to make it easier to pronounce, and started large scale production of the vehicles, with plants all over the world as demand started to significantly increase. This propelled Kiichiro to a world-status manufacturer, beating his competitors in sales and he knew that he had to venture into other models for greater reach. 

After World War II, Toyota directly benefited from Japan's alliance with the United States to learn from American automakers and other companies, which would give rise to The Toyota Way (a management philosophy) and a manufacturing method dubbed the Toyota Production System that would transform the small company into a leader in the industry and would be the subject of many academic studies. The US mandated the company to make 5000 trucks to be used in the Korean War that happened after the world war, putting it on the fore front of car manufacturers.

After the war, Toyota started making the Toyopet, or Model SA, that was available to drivers at a cheap price, and it was made to maneuver the rough roads of Japan following the war. The company failed to factor in the road conditions of other countries which had the cars breaking down in the US and other countries. Toyota recorded the worst dip in sales, with  only 215 SA Toyopets being made and sold ,and was forced to reconfigure the production method. The SF Toyopet that followed resulted in a slight improvement in sales with 8,400 sold annually by 1955, and 600,000 annually ten years later in 1965. 

Next came the Toyota Land Cruiser, a civilian truck that was based on the design of the Dodge half-ton weapons carriers, along with the Bantam. Afterward, in 1958, Toyota introduced the Crown, their first luxury car and this opened doors to international sales. In 1957, the company had established a headquarters in Hollywood in California.

With the hard lesson learnt with the failure of Land Cruiser and Toyopet models in the market, the company sought to build a car that was specifically designed to appeal to the American markets, which resulted in the introduction of the Avalon, Camry and the world famous Tiara, better known as Corona in 1957.

The Corona's release was so well received in the market , owing to its 90 hp engine and significant passenger room, along with performance, comfort, and good gas mileage, blazing through sales following high value marketing and advertising.

Due to high sales in the market, during the 1960s and 70s the company expanded through its acquisition of various companies such as Hino Motors, Ltd. (1966), a manufacturer of buses and large trucks; Nippondenso Company, Ltd., a maker of electrical auto components; and Daihitsu Motor Company, Ltd. (1967). At this point, the company had gained a reputation for its low-cost, fuel-efficient, and reliable vehicles such as the Corolla, which was released in the United States in 1967, which was also the first Toyota built in the country.

The company further continued to grow, with newer and sleeker innovations such as its luxury brand, Lexus launched in 1989, and the first mass-produced hybrid-powered vehicle in the world, the Prius in 1997.  Towards the 21st century, it launched its Scion brand in 2003 and unveiled the world’s first luxury hybrid vehicle, the Lexus RX 400h in 2005, all target a demographic of younger buyers.

The company now enjoys the top spot as the largest automobile manufacturer in the world, with more than 5.5 million vehicles being produced yearly, and with many award-winning designs and a reputation for innovative technology to their credit. 

Toyota has definitely exceeded its goal of creating a niche in the world's auto market as it continues to be associated with dependability and performance for all drivers, as it has never deterred delivering the best in new ideas for the future.

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