Sakichi Toyoda, the “King of Japanese Inventors” and patriarch of Toyota, was born on this day in 1867 in Kosai, Shizuoka, Japan. Early in his career Toyoda invented a variety of weaving machines, including the automatic power loom, leading him to found Toyoda Automatic Loom Works. By the late 1920s Sakichi found himself supporting the plans of his son Kiichiro to develop an automobile. Unfortunately he never saw the project through to fruition, as he passed away in 1930.
Kiichiro would take over the family business, establishing an automotive division in 1933. A prototype debuted just two years later. In 1937 Kiichiro organized Toyota Motor Corporation. The spelling change is due to beliefs that Toyota is a luckier name than Toyoda. It’s also easier to write in Japanese characters. Toyota borrowed a lot from Detroit automakers in its early years, including automotive design and manufacturing practices. Its first production model, the AA, was a near copy of a Chrysler Airflow. Kiichiro’s son Shoichiro Toyoda would later lead Toyota into the modern era. In an sad twist, Shoichiro died on his grandfather’s birthday in 2023.