Toyota knighthood is dubbed an insult

The man who persuaded Toyota Motors to invest £840m to build its first car factory in Britain is to receive an honorary knighthood from the Queen. An announcement that Eiji Toyoda, honorary chairman of Toyota Motors, is to be knighted "will be made very soon", a British government official told the Independent. Unlike the knighthood given in 1990 to the former head of Nissan Motors, Takeshi Ishihara, the honouring of Mr Toyoda is bound to spark criticism within Britain and Japan. Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, who is heading a British export mission to Japan, yesterday held a "courtesy meeting" with the 81-year old Mr Toyoda at the company's Nagoya headquarters.

Mr Toyoda was chairman in 1989 when Toyota Motors decided to manufacture cars at Derby, where production started in 1993. Toyota is the biggest Japanese car maker, as well as being one of the richest and most profitable of all Japanese firms.

"After the head of Nissan was given a knighthood it was always understood that the head of Toyota would be next in line, but we had to allow a decent interval," said the British official. Mr Ishihara was President of Nissan, arch-rival of Toyota, when itannounced in 1984 its intention to open the first Japanese car plant in Britain.

But the impending knighthood of Mr Toyoda will only rub salt into the wound of Honda Motors, which is still smarting from the British government's decision to sell the Rover Group to Germany's BMW without, it is claimed, properly consulting Rover's longtime Japanese partner. Honda's joint manufacture of cars with Rover in England had won praise and had been essential to Honda's European strategy. Honda officials complain that they feel betrayed by the sale of Rover to BMW, which one described as a "stab in the back".

The honouring of Mr Toyoda is also certain to anger former British prisoners of Japan during the Second World War, who on Monday began a court case with Commonwealth and US veterans against the Japanese government in pursuit of compensation.

Toyota Motors was one of several large Japanese corporations and financial institutions which received an invitation last year requesting that one of their senior executives meet Sir Kit McMahon, the former chairman of Midland Bank and former deputy governor of the Bank of England. Sir Kit made a secret visit to Tokyo in November at the behest of the Foreign Office to solicit donations to a charitable trust to aid former Commonwealth prisoners of Japan. None of the Japanese businesses agreed to meet Sir Kit. A spokesman for Toyota Motors said last night that he was "unable to find any record" pertaining to the visit by Sir Kit.

Mr Heseltine said on Monday: "I will no way distance myself from the feelings of the former prisoners of war. History is history. Facts are facts. There is bound to be an immensely emotional and difficult set of discussions as the consequence of such events. I can only repeat that I will no way distance myself from the Brits involved in such circumstances."

In his autobiography published in 1985, Toyota: Fifty Years in Motion, Eiji Toyoda details how the company, which included spinning and weaving works and an aircraft factory, made an important contribution to Japan's war effort before 1945.

Mostly, Toyota supplied trucks to the military, but it also built combustion chambers for a prototype jet engine - "the original plans were brought in from Germany by submarine" - and "unmanned plywood boats ... packed with explosives and launched at enemy ships".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine