Toyota Motor Corporation (Japanese: トヨタ自動車株式会社, Toyota Jidōsha Kabushiki-gaisha?, TYO: 7203), commonly known simply as Toyota, is a multinational corporation headquartered in Japan. At its peak, Toyota employed approximately 320,000 people worldwide. It is the world's largest automobile maker by sales.
The company was founded by Kiichiro Toyoda in 1937 as a spinoff from his father's company Toyota Industries to create automobiles. Three years earlier, in 1934, while still a department of Toyota Industries, it created its first product, the Type A engine, and, in 1936, its first passenger car, the Toyota AA. Toyota also owns and operates Lexus and Scion brands and has a majority shareholding stake in Daihatsu and Hino Motors, and minority shareholdings in Fuji Heavy Industries, Isuzu Motors, Yamaha Motors, and Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation. The company includes 522 subsidiaries.
Toyota is headquartered in Toyota City, Aichi and in Tokyo. In addition to manufacturing automobiles, Toyota provides financial services through its Toyota Financial Services division and also builds robots. Toyota Motor Corporation (including Toyota Financial Services) and Toyota Industries form the bulk of the Toyota Group, one of the largest conglomerates in the world. Vehicles were originally sold under the name "Toyoda" (トヨダ), from the family name of the company's founder, Kiichirō Toyoda. In September 1936, the company ran a public competition to design a new logo. Out of 27,000 entries the winning entry was the three Japanese katakana letters for "Toyoda" in a circle.
But Risaburō Toyoda, who had married into the family and was not born with that name, preferred "Toyota" (トヨタ) because it took eight brush strokes (a fortuitous number) to write in Japanese, was visually simpler (leaving off the diacritic at the end) and with a voiceless consonant instead of a voiced one (voiced consonants are considered to have a "murky" or "muddy" sound compared to voiceless consonants, which are "clear").
Since "Toyoda" literally means "fertile rice paddies", changing the name also helped to distance the company from associations with old-fashioned farming. The newly formed word was trademarked and the company was registered in August 1937 as the "Toyota Motor Company".The Toyota Motor Company received its first Japanese Quality Control Award at the start of the 1980s and began participating in a wide variety of motorsports. Due to the 1973 oil crisis, consumers in the lucrative U.S. market began turning to small cars with better fuel economy.
American car manufacturers had considered small economy cars to be an "entry level" product, and their small vehicles employed a low level of quality in order to keep the price low. By the early sixties, the US had begun placing stiff import tariffs on certain vehicles. The Chicken tax of 1964 placed a 25% tax on imported commercials vans In response to the tariff, Toyota, Nissan Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. began building plants in the U.S. by the early eighties.