Thursday, 31 July 2014

Toyota history: corporate and automotive: Toyota corporate history

The official Toyota history is, like that of most companies, fairly glossy and bare-bones. An article by Konrad Schreier, printed in the Complete Book of Toyota (a bit of a misnomer since the book is mainly a bunch of reprints of gushing, “no criticism allowed” car reviews), brings up a large number of missing pieces - as does The Standard Catalog of Imported Cars.

Why Toyota and not Toyoda?
According to a much-quoted article in Wikipedia, the spelling change was made to make it easier to pronounce, symbolize a separation from the founder’s home life, and, possibly most importantly, because Toyota, which takes eight strokes to write in Japanese, is considered to be luckier than Toyoda. 


Toyota history: corporate and automotive: Toyota corporate history

Sakichi Toyoda, a prolific inventor, created the Toyoda Automatic Loom company based on his groundbreaking designs, one of which was licensed to a British concern for 1 million yen; this money was used to help found Toyota Motor Company, which was supported by the Japanese government partly because of the military applications. The Japanese relied on foreign trucks in the war in Manchuria, but with the Depression, money was scarce. Domestic production would reduce costs, provide jobs, and make the country more independent. By 1936, just after the first successful Toyoda vehicles were produced, Japan demanded that any automakers selling in the country needed to have a majority of stockholders from Japan, along with all officers, and stopped nearly all imports.

Toyoda's car operations were placed in the hands of Kiichiro Toyoda, Sakichi Toyoda’s son; they started experimenting with two cylinder engines at first, but ended up copying the Chevrolet 65-horsepower straight-six, using the same chassis and gearbox with styling copied from the Chrysler Airflow. The first engine was produced in 1934 (the Type A), the first car and truck in 1935 (the Model A1 and G1, respectively), and its second car design in 1936 (the model AA). In 1937, Toyota Motor Company was split off.

From 1936 to 1943, only 1,7,57 cars were made – 1,404 sedans and 353 phaetons (model AB), but Toyoda found more success building trucks and busses. The Toyota KB, a 4x4 produced starting in 1941, was a two-ton truck similar to the prewar KC; it had a loading capacity of 1.5 tons and could run up to about 43 mph. The GB was based on the peacetime, 1.5 ton G1 truck, which in turn was based on the Model A1 cars. (From globalspec).

The first Toyoda truck was roughly a one-ton to one and a half-ton design, conventional in nature, using (after 1936) an overhead valve six-cylinder engine that appears to have been a clone of the Chevrolet engine of the time: indeed, a large number of parts were interchangeable, and Toyoda trucks captured in the war were serviced by the Allies with Chevrolet components. There was also a forty-horsepower four cylinder model, very similar to the six cylinder in design but rather underpowered for a truck with a full ton of capacity.

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