Shoichiro Toyoda, Former President of Toyota, Dead at 97

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Shoichiro Toyoda, son of the founder of Toyota and credited with pushing the automaker into international markets, has died at the age of 97. Reports indicate he passed away Feb. 14 due to heart failure.

Made honorary chairman in his later years, he was largely responsible for the company’s aggressive push into North America, including manufacturing vehicles on this continent.

Born Feb. 27, 1925, in Nagoya City, Toyoda was able to experience the height of Imperial Japan, its demise and the rebuilding of the country with foreign help. It wasn’t until 1982 that he became president of his father’s company, using his vision of Toyota becoming an international force to push into markets around the globe. He served as president of Toyota until 1992.

Rapidly, the Toyota name came to become respected as it stood for reliability, durability and all-around quality with legendary models like the Hilux pickup and Land Cruiser. Countless books and articles have been written about the automaker’s engineering and manufacturing methods developed in part under Toyoda’s watch, with many competitors trying to incorporate elements of them into their own operations.

Also under Toyoda’s direction Lexus was formed, forever altering the luxury car market in North America. Today it is often ranked as one of the most desirable and reliable luxury brands.

In 2007, Shoichiro Toyoda was inducted into the U.S. Automotive Hall of Fame. Such a move was unthinkable when he became president of the company, enduring a smear campaign in the 1980s that accused Toyota and other Japanese manufacturers of stealing manufacturing jobs from American workers. However, Toyota manufacturing in the U.S. surged 49% from 1981 to 1990.

A private funeral for Toyoda’s family will be held. Toyota Motor Corporation said it will hold a “farewell gathering” at a time to be announced later.

We thank Motorious for reprint permission.

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