Eiji Toyoda: Executive who helped create the 'Toyota Way' method of car-making


Eiji Toyoda, who has died aged 100, was a member of Toyota's founding family who helped create the super-efficient "Toyota Way" production method. A cousin of the car manufacturer's founder Kiichiro Toyoda, he served as president from 1967-82, leading Toyota's growth into an automotive giant. He became chairman in 1982, and continued in advisory positions up to his death.

A graduate of Tokyo University with a degree in mechanical engineering, he joined Toyoda Automatic Loom Works in 1936. He spent his early years on the shop floor, and helped pioneer Toyota's reputed just-in-time production to cut waste and empower workers for continuous improvement, or "kaizen."

Toyota started out as a loom maker, founded by Kiichiro Toyoda's father Sakichi. Eiji Toyoda's father was Sakichi's brother. During his years at the helm of what is now the world's biggest car-maker, Eiji Toyoda led the development of the Toyota Corolla, which has become one of the best-selling cars of all time. He also pushed Toyota to develop luxury vehicles, which later became the Lexus brand.

One of Japan's most respected businessmen, Toyoda was also one of the main figures who forged Toyota's partnership with General Motors to set up a joint plant in Fremont, California called NUMMI, New United Motor Manufacturing, in 1984. The plant closed in 2010. He is survived by his three sons, who are all executives at Toyota affiliates.