Eiji Toyoda, the longest-serving president in the history of Toyota and the man responsible for the creation of the Lexus brand, died today at the age of 100.
His legacy extends through every corner of Toyota’s success — under his leadership, the company grew to become the world’s biggest automaker and revolutionized modern manufacturing with just-in-time production and the creation of “The Toyota Way“.
With this considerable influence, he was able to push Toyota into the luxury car market — here is the story of Lexus, as told in Chester Dawson’s book The Relentless Pursuit:
At that top-secret session [in 1983], Toyota Motor’s top brass debated a car project so sensitive it was codenamed with an encircled letter F, or maruefu (and later known internally as the F1 program—but which bore no relation to the Formula One circuit). That nom de guerre was a nod to its make-or-break status as the company’s (F for) flagship, No.1 vehicle.
Chairman Eiji Toyoda posed a question to the company’s senior executives, designers, engineers and strategic thinkers—the Toyota Motor joint chiefs of staff. ‘‘Can we create a luxury car to challenge the very best?’’ he asked. To a man, the assembled generals of Toyota Motor’s far-flung empire answered in unison: Yes — a ‘yes’ full of conviction.
So, in a move that spared no expense and cemented his legacy as one of the automotive world’s greats, Eiji Toyoda gave the order to move into the luxury market. Six years and half a billion dollars later, the very first Lexus was born.
For a deeper look into the life and accomplishments of Eiji Toyoda, please refer to the obituaries posted by The New York Times & Bloomberg. Mr. Toyoda had three sons and a daughter with his wife, Kazuko. He is survived by Kanshiro, his eldest son.