ENGINES: TOYOTA MOTOR CORPORATION
Name: Toyota Motor Corporation
Sakichi Toyoda invented an automatic weaving loom in the 1920s and in 1926 his business had grown to such an extent that he established a factory to manufacture his products. Just before his death in 1930 he decided to sell the rights to his loom and allow his son Kiichiro to invest the money raised in the booming automobile business. An automobile production area was added to the Toyoda factory and in 1933 it began producing copies of American engines. Three years later the Japanese government introduced new legislation to control foreign imports and this gave Toyoda the opportunity to expand the automobile business. The car division was renamed Toyota and shares were sold to the public in 1937.
Not long afterwards the government banned the production of passenger cars and, in order to keep the company in operation, Toyota began producing military machinery. The war did serious damage to the Toyota company and it was not until 1950 that the company began to recover, having concentrated on investment in research and development, quality control and new production techniques. The Toyota Land Cruiser, which was introduced in 1951, was a breakthrough in four-wheel-drive technology but the Toyota Crown (1955) and the smaller Toyota Corona (1957) were the models which re-established the company. The Crown was launched into the American market in 1957 but it was not a great success and in 1965 the Corona followed. This was much more successful and the Corolla which arrived in 1968 was a huge success. It is now the best-selling car of all time.
By 1970 Toyota had become the fourth biggest car company in the world behind General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. The United States market continued to play an important role in the development of the company and after the oil crisis in 1973 demand for smaller fuel-efficient cars helped Toyota to become the leading automobile importer in America. The company concentrated on building reliable cars and developing efficient manufacturing processes which could be changed quickly to meet new trends.
The company expanded production around the world, starting US production in 1984 with a joint venture with General Motors. This was followed in 1988 by a factory in Georgetown, Kentucky. The following year it launched its luxury US brand Lexus and now has several other production facilities. Expansion in Europe was more difficult because of legislation which restricted Japanese imports until 2000. In preparation for the end of the restrictions Toyota has been gearing up for a European sales drive with an engine production facility in Britain and a new factory at Valenciennes in France. The company also expanded into China in the mid 1990s. It has maintained its tradition of keeping costs low and quality high although it the 1990s the company's image became increasingly conservative and it did not react quickly to the demand for sports utility vehicles and minivans which was an important trend in the late 1990s car market.
The company enjoys close links with its suppliers and holds shares in Yamaha, Daihatsu and Hino Motors. The Toyoda Family is still involved in the management although the company did appoint Hiroshi Okuda to the role of chief executive in 1995 and under his management the firm adopted a much more aggressive expansion policy.
Toyota has always been cautious in its approach to racing, preferring to leave competition to specialist companies and to local Toyota dealer networks. Yamaha has done a lot of engine development work for Toyota since the 1960s while smaller companies such as Dome and TOM'S were able to develop as Toyota users. In 1972 Ove Andersson founded a rally team to develop Toyota products for competition in Europe. The company, which became known as Team Toyota Europe in 1975, scored its first World Championship victory that year with Hannu Mikkola on the 1000 Lakes Rally. The 1990s resulted in more success with Carlos Sainz winning the World title in 1990 and 1992.
In 1993 Toyota took full control of TTE and won the Manufacturers' title for the first time (the first Japanese company to achieve that goal). Further titles followed for Juha Kankkunen and Didier Auriol but in 1995 there was scandal when the team was found to have used an illegal turbo restrictor. The company was banned from racing in the World Rally Championship in 1996.
Although the company returned to rallying it began to develop a sportscar program in 1998, previous efforts with Dome and TOM'S having been unsuccessful.
Early attempts to lure Toyota into F1, notably by TOM'S in 1992, failed although Toyota was rumored to be keeping a very close eye on Yamaha's F1 program in the late 1990s.
In 1998 the company began to look seriously about an official F1 program to coincide with its sales drive in Europe with the new Yaris model ansd entered F1 in 2002 with a full factory team.