Former Toyota boss Shoichiro Toyoda dies aged 97

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Ex-Toyota boss Shoichiro Toyoda helped push the firm to become a global competitor and oversaw the development of Lexus and the Prius.

Former Toyota boss and honorary chairman Shoichiro Toyoda, who spearheaded the Japanese manufacturer’s transformation into a global car brand, has died in Japan aged 97.

The son of Toyota founder Kiichiro Toyoda, Shoichiro began his career at the firm in 1952. He went on to become president of Toyota in 1982 before assuming the position of chairman from 1992 to 1999.

In total, Toyoda served on Toyota’s board for 57 years, making him the firm’s longest-serving director. He took the position of honorary chairman in 2009 and remained in the role until his death on Tuesday 14 February 2023.

Japan’s prime minister, Fumio Kishida, said: “Shoichiro Toyoda raised Toyota to become the world’s top auto maker”.

An influential engineer, Toyoda led the company’s expansion into manufacturing in the US, which helped the firm to cement its position as a world power in the automotive industry and revolutionised its cost structure and product localisation.

He also introduced a system of “total quality control”, which allowed Toyota’s workers to suggest improvements to production in order to slash defects – a system that was later replicated by other car makers.

After he took the position of president in 1982, Toyota’s vehicle sales in the US increased from 711,993 to 1.1 million in 1990 – an increase of 49 per cent.

Toyoda also spearheaded the development of Lexus, Toyota’s premium and luxury sub-brand, which was founded in 1989 by Eiji Toyoda, who Shoichiro succeeded as president.

In addition, he presided over the launch of the Toyota Prius, which kick-started the company’s development of hybrid powertrains.

Toyoda’s death comes a month after his son, Akio Toyoda, announced he would step down as president and CEO of the company.

Akio, who assumed the role of president in 2009, is an avid petrolhead who actively promoted Toyota and Lexus sports cars during his tenure, including the Lexus LFA and Toyota GR Yaris.

He also led the company’s initial push into battery-electric vehicle production, unveiling a series of concepts in 2021.

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