Eiji Toyoda, who helped steer Toyota’s global rise and pioneered the carmaker’s production system, has died, less than a week after his 100th birthday.
Toyoda, a cousin of company founder Kiichiro Toyoda, died of heart failure in Toyota City.
Born in the central city of Nagoya, he joined the company in 1936; an engineer by profession with a reputation for taciturnity, Toyoda served as president from 1967 and 1982; he was chairman until 1994 and remained an honorary advisor at Toyota until his death.
He presided over Toyota's rise in the US market from the launch of the Corolla in the late 1960s to the decision to begin making cars in the United States in the late 1980s.
THE TOYOTA WAY
He was also instrumental in developing what became the company’s much-imitated ‘just in time’ method of producing cars with as little waste as possible and continual quality improvements, a system that became known as the “Toyota Way”.
In 1950 Kiichiro Toyoda sent Eiji, a graduate of the University of Tokyo, to Ford’s huge Rouge Plant to learn about carmaking from the company that had pioneered mass production.
“EQUAL TO AMERICA’S”
In a story that is still shared at Toyota training sessions, Toyoda returned to Japan impressed with American materials and machinery but convinced that he could improve on Ford's world-famous production system.
Toyoda wrote after his month and a half of training at Ford's major factories: “Japan's automobile industry facilities and engineers are good but our machine tools are inferior. If we can solve this problem, we can manufacture good and economic vehicles that are equal to America's.”
At the time of his death, Toyoda was being treated at a hospital the company had first founded as a clinic for its factory workers in 1938. - Reuters