TURNING POINTS
25 Pivotal Decisions
in Toyota's 50 Years in America

25 Pivotal Decisions in Toyota's 50 Years in America


image KEITH CRAIN
Search for perfection

It has been 50 years since the first Toyota showed up in America. Toyota's early efforts were not spectacularly successful, but it improved - constantly. That is the secret of its success Keith E. Crain is publisher and editor-in-chief of Automotive News. arrow FULL STORY 

imageJOHN K. TEAHEN JR.
Half a century later, it's time for me to eat crow

OK, I was wrong. I admit it. So shoot me. I'm referring to my original assessment of Toyota's chances to be successful in the United States. That was in 1957, and I was not exactly optimistic. John K. Teahen Jr. is senior editor of Automotive News. arrow FULL STORY 

image PETER BROWN
What keeps Toyota 1 step ahead? Relentless dissatisfaction
Getting better is an all-day, every-day project

Maybe the Toyota secret was out. Maybe other carmakers could adopt Toyota's methods and match the leader in quality and productivity. Might that happen? Peter Brown is associate publisher and editorial director of Automotive News arrow FULL STORY 

imageJAMES B. TREECE
Behind Toyota, always, stand the Toyodas
Family dynasty and its code changed automaking

Before the Prius, before Lexus, — before even those first two Toyopet Crowns were on a passenger ship from Yokohama to Los Angeles, there was the family. The auto industry has produced many celebrated dynasties: Ford, Michelin, Peugeot, Porsche/Piech. And Toyoda James B. Treece is industry editor of Automotive News. arrow FULL STORY 



Toyota 50
Toyota 50 TURNING POINTS
Toyota comes to the United States and establishes Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.


STORY:
  • Coming to America

Toyota 50                    
Toyota 50 TURNING POINTS
Commitment to keep dealer body small -- and profits high -- helps to build a coveted franchise.


STORIES:
  • Small ragtag band developed into a solid dealer corps


  • Since 1975, import sales have been a Toyota show

Toyota 50
Toyota 50 TURNING POINTS
Toyota's first U.S. entry is the Toyopet Crown. The verdict: Back to the drawing board.


STORIES:
  • The Toyopet Crown: Rocky start for a future giant


  • 0 to 60 took an eon -- but the Toyopet had some nice qualities, too


  • After Toyopet trauma, Corona got Toyota up to speed in U.S.
  • Hot '60s sports car is rarest Toyota collectible

Toyota 50
Toyota 50 TURNING POINTS
Four years after the Toyopet bombs, the Corona's launch marks the beginning of Toyota’s sales success story.


STORIES:
  • Corona pulled Toyota into the passing lane


  • Finely crafted, but cramped: '60s classic required jockey-sized driver

Toyota 50
Toyota 50 TURNING POINTS
Facing the Big 3's dominance in the East, Midwest and South, Toyota turns to independent distributors.


STORIES:
  • U.S. distributors gave Toyota a toehold in a mysterious new market


  • Maverick Moran made waves, money -- and taught Toyota how to sell


  • Blue pushpins followed VW's trail in the Southeast


  • New England adventurers read like a crime novel


  • A 'Yoo-hoo' led to 40-year career for longest-serving employee

Toyota 50
Toyota 50 TURNING POINTS
In the 1970s, Toyota makes a corporate commitment to make quality a trademark of the brand.


STORIES:
  • Bulletproof quality came only after a long struggle


  • On Power's path to Toyota: Dog food and forklifts


  • A drip pan in the showroom? Not any more


  • Oil sludge threatened to smear a good name


  • Company's quality crusade was launched by an American


  • Punks, tramps gave Toyota transit trouble


  • Toyota's ad constants: Stress quality, seek a feel-good connection


  • The 'Oh, what a feeling' leap: Part of popular culture

Toyota 50
Toyota 50 TURNING POINTS
A California fabricator begins making pickup beds for Toyota, marking the beginning of U.S. manufacturing.


STORY:
  • U.S. manufacturing began with an effort to duck chicken tax

Toyota 50
Toyota 50 TURNING POINTS
Toyota becomes the first automaker with a design studio in California, giving birth to "West Coast car design."


STORIES:
  • Creation of Calty launched new era of California car design


  • Toyota Technical Center won respect, funding

Toyota 50                    
Toyota 50 TURNING POINTS
Toyota's U.S. sales arm launches a finance unit, giving dealers another sales tool.


STORIES:
  • Toyota grows a financial giant from $100,000 in seed money


  • Wall St. holds new captive's AAA rating captive

Toyota 50
Toyota 50 TURNING POINTS
Toyota tests its production system outside of Japan with a joint venture at a GM plant in California.


STORIES:
  • Would the Toyota system work in U.S.? NUMMI was a test run


  • Ford had first shot at Toyota venture, but couldn't figure out what to build


  • NUMMI: Oh, what an uneasy feeling for Toyota


  • NUMMI alumni went on to key positions in auto industry


  • Ford's top man is a Toyota man

Toyota 50
Toyota 50 TURNING POINTS
Toyota begins to expand its line beyond traditional passenger cars.


STORY:
  • Politics, demographics, new clout of U.S. crew shaped the evolution of Toyota's product line

Toyota 50
Toyota 50 TURNING POINTS
Toyota takes on the challenge of making autos in America on its own, far from the home turf of the Big 3 and the UAW.


STORIES:
  • In Georgetown, Toyota became global


  • Furor over states' incentives influenced Toyota PR effort


  • Toyota stepped on labor's toes -- and learned


  • Early lesson of Georgetown: Retrain the trainers

Toyota 50
Toyota 50 TURNING POINTS
Toyota builds a supplier network with an innovative, collaborative approach new to U.S. companies.


STORIES:
  • The tricky part of making U.S. cars: Lining up U.S. parts


  • Small hotel gathering turns into big commitment to minority suppliers


  • Toyota spends for diversity, but some say it's not enough


  • Down-and-out supplier captured Toyota's attention

Toyota 50
Toyota 50 TURNING POINTS
Eiji Toyoda decides to let the Americans create a new premium brand.


STORIES:
  • A Japanese luxury brand? Doubters scoffed -- but not for long


  • Early defects, ironically, showed Lexus' commitment to quality


  • How a former GM exec ushered in the Lexus brand


  • To early doubters, Lexus assignment was 'Siberia'


  • A drive in 'the best car in the world'

Toyota 50
Toyota 50 TURNING POINTS
Toyota names hard-charging Bob McCurry its top U.S.executive.


STORIES:
  • 'Captain Crunch': Tough marketer puts Toyota on new course


  • Who coined the Captian's nickname? We did, apparently

Toyota 50
Toyota 50 TURNING POINTS
Toyota's U.S. execs insist the redesigned 1992 Camry reflect American tastes. The result: A big hit.


STORIES:
  • 3rd-generation Camry took Toyota to a new level in '92


  • The Camry with a Lexus underneath

Toyota 50
Toyota 50 TURNING POINTS
Urged by its U.S. crew, Toyota tries the full-sized pickup segment. But it didn't bring a full-sized truck.


STORIES:
  • Attempt to sell too-small T100 pickup was a full-sized failure


  • Full-sized pickup is a Texas-sized gamble


  • Culture shock: From sushi to surf and turf


  • A reputation-builder: The truck that won't die

Toyota 50
Toyota 50 TURNING POINTS
Toyota decides it can export cars to Japan, not just from Japan, and becomes a true global automaker.


STORY:
  • Tough times in '90s force Toyota to slash costs, reinvent itself

Toyota 50
Toyota 50 TURNING POINTS
Honorary Chairman Eiji Toyoda creates G21, a committee to research cars for the 21st century.


STORIES:
  • Prius hybrid aimed small, stood tall


  • Oscar night star power provides priceless publicity for the Prius

Toyota 50
TURNING POINTS
Toyota boosts r&d spending, becomes an innovator in powertrains, safety technology and other areas.


STORY:
  • Playing defense, Toyota cranked up r&d -- and reaped benefits

Toyota 50
Toyota 50 TURNING POINTS
Toyota takes the lead in trade dispute, revealing a plan to increase spending on U.S. parts.


STORY:
  • Bold moves halt tariff stalemate, save Lexus brand

Toyota 50
Toyota 50 TURNING POINTS
After a close call on tariffs in 1995, Toyota pushes hard to promote itself as a vital part of the U.S. economy and culture.


STORIES:
  • The constant gardener


  • 'Racing Camrys to sell Tundras'


  • Among the triumphs, a touch of sleaze

Toyota 50
Toyota 50 TURNING POINTS
Toyota decides to gamble on luxurious car-based SUVs.


STORY:
  • SUV lite: Crossovers kept the look and space, with soft ride of cars

Toyota 50
Toyota 50 TURNING POINTS
Children of the baby boomers are no-shows in the showroom. So Toyota creates a brand -- and a new image.


STORIES:
  • Toyota courts kids with Scion, gets thumbs-up verdict: The box rocks


  • Yoshizu keeps it real for Scion

Toyota 50                    
TURNING POINTS
Toyota decides it's OK to delay a new-model deadline for the sake of ensuring quality.


STORY:
  • Quality problems lead to soul searching: Are we growing too fast?



5 Key Questions for the Future

 

ENVIRONMENT: Will Toyota lead on climate, energy? Or join just-say-no club?

Talk about sending mixed signals. Toyota, often praised in environmental circles for pioneering fuel-saving technology, has launched a 5,000-pound hybrid luxury car, the Lexus LS 600h L. While its 21-mpg rating in combined city-highway driving beats much of the high-end competition, the car also is a speck of tarnish on the automaker's green image.  story 

 

YOUTH: Critical task: Keep post-boomer consumer in the Toyota fold

Toyota has made its mark in the United States by latching on to the baby boom generation. It turned Toyota into the best-selling import brand in America. The boomers also fueled the growth of Lexus into the best-selling U.S. luxury brand. But what happens when the boomers die off? What will Toyota do to convince future generations that it is as relevant to them as it was to their parents?  story 

 

DIVERSITY: Help wanted: New blood, ideas must fuel inclusive, expanding corporate culture

Jim Press' promotion to succeed a Japanese national as COO of Toyota Motor North America, and his subsequent replacement by another Japanese after his abrupt departure for Chrysler, raises questions about Toyota's human resource policies. Will Toyota's top post in the United States continue to be reserved for Japanese males and white American males?  story 

 

DEALERSHIPS: Sales growth swells dealer profits, but requires heavy capital spending, too

If the dealer makes money, we make money. If the dealer is happy, we are happy. That mantra has been at the heart of Toyota's retail philosophy since it started business in the United States 50 years ago. It's the main reason Toyota's dealer body has stayed relatively small for so long. Don't expect that to change.  story 


 

GROWTH: Toyota wins the sales crown - and a new list of worries

In July, when Ford Motor Co. and General Motors reported surprisingly strong profits for the second quarter — Ford after seven straight quarterly losses and GM after eking out small profits in the previous two quarters —. Why would competitor Toyota root for GM or Ford? Because Toyota will walk through fire to avoid any impression that it's pushing the U.S. companies over a cliff.  story 

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