Death at 97 of Shoichiro Toyoda, the architect of Toyota's globalization

Eva Deschamps / February 14, 2023

Shoichiro Toyoda, who died Tuesday at the age of 97, was the former head of the Japanese automotive giant Toyota, which was founded by his father. He developed the group's global industrial presence and laid the foundations for its success in hybrid vehicles.
He died of heart failure and his funeral will be held in the privacy of his family, according to a brief statement from the group.
Born on February 27, 1925, this eldest son of Kiichiro Toyoda, founder of Toyota, joined the company in 1952, gradually climbing the hierarchy and improving production quality control.
In 1982, the arrival at the helm of this trained engineer also marked the birth of the current group, with the merger of its commercial and production activities, divided since the 1950s.
The successful integration of these two opposing branches is largely the work of Shoichiro Toyoda, who led the group for ten years before becoming chairman of the board (1992-1999) and then honorary chairman until his death. 
In the early 1980s, the unbridled success of Japan's automobile exports had led to serious trade tensions with the United States and Europe. Toyota realized that it had to produce as much as possible locally.
A joint venture between Toyota and the American General Motors was created in 1984, allowing the Japanese group to start production in the United States.
Other factories of the group have subsequently grown like mushrooms in North America, but also in the rest of the world (Europe, China and Southeast Asia, Latin America...). Today, Toyota manufactures two-thirds of its vehicles outside Japan.
In 1989, Shoichiro Toyoda brought his group into the high-end automotive segment with a new brand, Lexus, which was mainly present in North America and China.
He also approved the development of the Toyota Prius, the first mass-produced hybrid (gasoline-electric) car, which went on sale in 1997.
Hybrids subsequently became the cash cow of the group, which sold a record 2.7 million Toyota and Lexus cars in this category in 2022.
Shoichiro Toyoda, who was succeeded at the head of the group by his younger brother Tatsuro (who died in 2017), was also president of the Keidanren, the powerful Japanese employers' federation, in the 1990s.
He was the father of Akio Toyoda, CEO of the group since 2009.
While he was increasingly criticized externally for delaying the serious launch of his group into the 100% electric segment, Akio Toyoda made a surprise announcement last month that he would be replaced in April by one of his lieutenants, Koji Sato. Aged 66, Akio Toyoda will take over as chairman of the board.
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