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Unpacking One Man’s Outsized Impact On A Global Auto Brand

Shoichiro Toyoda's legacy will live on in a number of important ways. Photo by Junko Kimura/Getty Images

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By any measure, Shoichiro Toyoda lived a full life. Not only did he make it to the ripe old age of 97, but he leaves behind a legacy that lives on in garages around the world.

Although his grandfather founded the Toyota company, it was his father who refocused the brand away from building tools and toward producing automobiles. Then, Shoichiro took things even further by turning the company into one of the most reliable and popular automakers on the planet.

A global focus

Even under his father’s leadership, Toyota vehicles were primarily sold and driven locally. After taking control of the newly formed Toyota Motor Corporation in the early 1980s, however, Shoichiro cast a much wider net.

By the time he became chairman a decade later, the nameplate was known around the world for its value, performance, and attention to detail.

An enduring impact

The automaker is now under the fourth-generation leadership of Shoichiro’s son, Akio — but it’s clear that the third-generation leader’s fingerprint left an indelible mark on the company. Beyond opening up a worldwide market for the brand, here are some ways he’s being remembered:

  • Mechanical expertise: As a highly trained engineer, Shoichiro Toyoda helped the company better understand and refine the process of fuel injection.
  • Improving quality: Not only did his leadership prioritize creating more reliable Toyota models, but he was also instrumental in launching the luxury Lexus brand in the late ‘80s.
  • Factory focus: Auto manufacturers have always relied on factories, but it was Shoichiro who worked tirelessly to streamline and expand output as far back as the 1950s.
  • Lifelong commitment: Although the chairman position is largely ceremonial, he remained closely involved in the company for decades, participating in events well into his 80s.
Chris Agee
Chris Agee February 16th, 2023
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