The Toyoda family: Japan’s answer to Henry Ford

By Peter Cai

After the military contracts dried up, Toyota started making passenger cars again and Kiichiro, who had successfully steered the company though turbulent war times, retired and passed on the baton to outside professional managers.

Since Eiji Toyoda took over in 1967, the founding family has returned to run the company that Sakichi started almost a century ago.

A year later, a member of the Toyoda family — Eiji Toyoda, the favourite nephew of founding father Sakichi — returned to the helm of the company as president and chairman.

But the Toyota family remained an important part of the company and Kiichiro’s cousin, Eiji, was sent to the US automobile industry.

Sakichi was too fragile to lead the new company but he challenged his son Kiichiro to “build a Japanese car with Japanese hands”, according to Edwin Reingold, a chronicler of the company’s history.

Yet it was an outsider, Taiichi Ohno, who developed and perfected Kiichiro’s vision of lean manufacturing and turned it into the ‘Toyota Production System’, which could be used in all manner of complex industrial production.

From the beginning, Kiichiro understood he was not only making a car but creating an industry from scratch and a new system of production. “This understanding of the importance of developing a successful process lay, and still lies, at the centre of Toyota’s success,” wrote the late David Landes, a noted economic historian from Harvard.

Toyota registered its first loss since 1938 in the year Akio took over, and he was hauled in front of the US Congress to apologise for deadly defects in popular models sold to millions of Americans.

Read more here: Business Spectator


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