A close up shows the Toyota badge.

The Legacy of Shoichiro Toyota

On February 14, Shoichiro Toyoda passed away at age 97. As a prominent member of the Toyota family, Shoichiro Toyoda was instrumental in transforming the Toyota Motor Corporation into the automotive titan it is today. During his ten years as President and seven years as Chairman, he spearheaded initiatives from the creation of the Lexus luxury brand to the production of the Prius, positioning Toyota as an industry leader on many fronts. After his retirement in 1999, Shoichiro Toyoda served as the Honorary Chairman of Toyota until his passing.

A Life Dedicated to the Automotive World

As the son of Kiichiro Toyoda, the founder of Toyota Motors, Shoichiro Toyoda was born into the automotive business. He showed an early interest in cars, founding an automotive club while studying engineering at Nagoya Imperial University. Although his education was interrupted when he was conscripted for labor during the Second World War, he completed his degree after the war and contributed to research in fuel injection technology. However, the devastation of post-war Japan meant that Shoichiro could not immediately pursue a career in automotive technology, instead working in the much-needed industries of food processing and construction as his nation rebuilt during the 1940s.

It was not until 1952 that Shoichiro Toyoda joined Toyota Motors, the same year that his father passed away after finally restarting car production at the company. Shoichiro Toyoda quickly rose through the ranks of the rapidly growing company, being promoted to the President of Toyota Motor Sales in 1981. In this position, he oversaw the merger of Toyota’s sales and production branches into a single entity, becoming the first President of the modern Toyota Motor Corporation.

Within three years as President, Shoichiro Toyoda negotiated a deal with General Motors that saw Toyota open its first manufacturing facility in the United States, paving the way for incredible expansion in our country. His second great achievement as the President of Toyota was the establishment of the Lexus luxury brand in 1989, proving that Japan could compete with the best Europe and America could offer. In 1992, Shoichiro Toyoda stepped down as President and assumed the role of Chairman, which he held for the next five years, using his position to support the development of hybrid technology.

A Giant in the Industry

Throughout his long life, Shoichiro Toyoda was more than a manager, he was a researcher, engineer, and driver. His early work in fuel injection technology contributed to his PhD in engineering from Tohoku University in 1955, and in 1980 he received the Deming Prize for contributions to the science of quality control. His advancement of the industry has been widely recognized around the world. In 2005, Shoichiro Toyoda became the second Japanese citizen to receive the FISITA Medal from the French International Federation of Automotive Engineering Societies, and in 2007 he was inducted into the Detroit Automotive Hall of Fame.

Shoichiro Toyoda also instilled his love for the automobile in his son, Akio Toyoda, who followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming not only the sixth President of the Toyota Motor Corporation, but also an accomplished race car driver. The legacy that Shoichiro Toyoda leaves behind in his family and his company has made the world a richer place for all who share his passion for automobiles.