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Shoichiro Toyoda Toyota’s Founder’s Son Died at the Age of 97

According to the firm, Toyota Motor Corp founder Akio Toyoda’s father, Shoichiro Toyoda, passed away on Tuesday due to heart failure. He was 97.  Toyoda, who has been with Toyota since 1952, oversaw the company’s entrance into the United States market, the introduction of the Lexus luxury brand and the Prius hybrid, and widespread recognition for the company’s groundbreaking approach to quality control in production.

In central Japan’s Toyota, President Chinchilla of Costa Rica was presented with a souvenir by Toyota Motor Corp.’s Honorary Chairman Toyoda. President Chinchilla of Costa Rica was in attendance when Toyota Motor Corp. Honorary Chairman Toyoda presented a keepsake to Chinchilla during a ceremony in Toyota, Japan.

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Shortly after his son, Akio Toyoda, 66, the third generation of the founding family to oversee the automaker, announced that he was stepping down as president and would become chairman, the elder Toyoda passed away. “Shoichiro Toyoda raised Toyota to become the world’s top carmaker,” stated Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in a message of grief.

Toyoda, a Ph.D. student in engineering at Tohoku University, recalled his father’s admonition that “an engineer belongs on the factory floor” as the advice he would never forget. He first worked at Toyota checking vehicles that customers had sent back because of problems.

In 1957, he was tasked with driving across America in a Toyota Crown before making his recommendation to the company: begin exporting. Due to widespread concerns amongst American consumers about the vehicle’s lack of power, sales were eventually halted.

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Toyoda admitted his error, saying, “It was a severe mistake.” “Nevertheless, I used the lessons I learned from that mistake and resolved to create a superior automobile.” Toyoda was one of the executives at Toyota in the 1960s tasked with introducing a new “total quality control” system based on the teachings of an American professor named William Deming.

Workers were encouraged to give suggestions to enhance output and decrease defects under the approach, which was later adopted by other automakers and businesses in other industries. Toyoda, in a book published in installments by the Nikkei newspaper, reflected on the program’s impact on Toyota’s corporate culture and how it had changed the company.

After proving his dedication to Toyota’s quality standards, Toyoda was promoted to the position of managing director in 1961. He took over as sales chief for Toyota in 1981. A year after the company’s manufacturing and sales divisions merged, he became chairman of the newly unified Toyota Motor Corp and remained in that position until 1999.

Shoichiro Toyoda, Toyota's Founder's Son, Died at the Age of 97
Shoichiro Toyoda, Toyota’s Founder’s Son, Died at the Age of 97

From 1994 to 1998, Toyoda presided over the Japanese business lobby Keidanren, where he advocated for the deregulation of fast-growing industries including mobile phones, and the reduction of the corporation tax rate. Two years after his father Kiichiro was forced to resign as president of Toyota due to the company’s financial woes, Toyoda joined the company.

The Bank of Japan mediated a bank bailout for Toyota. Saying in 2014, “I have not forgotten,” he recalled how the Bank of Japan had saved the company in 1950. He said that he had learned from experience that no business was immortal and that most fell on hard times at the 30-year mark.

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