Eiji Toyoda, the venerable head of Toyota Motor Corp. passed away yesterday at Toyota Memorial Hospital just five days after celebrating his 100th birthday. The cause of death was listed as heart failure.
Born September 12, 1913, near Nagoya in Central Japan, Eiji was the nephew of company founder Sakichi Toyoda, who took him under his wing after the younger Toyoda graduated from Tokyo University with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1936.
By the 1950’s, Eijii helped transform a tiny spin-off of the family’s textile loom-making business into what would become the world’s largest automaker. In fact, during his 69 years with the company, he oversaw Toyota’s rise from assembling its cars with parts made by General Motors to becoming “16 times more valuable than the US automaker.”
Eiji became president of Toyota in 1967, serving for 15 years (longer than anyone else) and continued on as both chairman and advisor until his death. Under his tenure he added compact and sports cars to the company’s line-up during the 1960’s and ‘70’s, initiated the start of its luxury brand Lexus in 1982, and began development for the Prius hybrid.
“He was someone who was indispensable to the nation’s entire industry,” noted Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga during a news conference in Tokyo after learning of Toyoda’s passing.
Eiji Toyoda was elected to the Auto Hall of Fame in Dearborn, MI in 1994, joining fellow Japanese automaker, Soichiro Honda (founder of Honda Motors).
Mr. Toyoda was predeceased by his wife Kazuko, who died in 2002, as well as one daughter and two sons Tetsuro and Shuhei. He is survived by his eldest son Kanshiro and “many grandchildren.”