The names have become iconic. The Camry, Corolla, RAV4, Highlander, Prius, 4Runner, Tacoma, and Tundra are just some of the models Toyota has been offering drivers across America. In fact, Toyota has built its reputation on delivering safe, fuel-efficient, innovative, and affordable vehicles. This is why you can rest assured that when you stop into a used Toyota dealer, you will drive out in a car, truck, or SUV that will give you many years of incredible driving. But what you don’t know is that you are also driving a piece of history. That is because these used Toyota models represent a legacy of hard work and innovation that dates back almost 100 years. If that sounds strange, then you may need to learn a few facts about how Toyota developed to the position it is today as the top-selling auto brand in the world. Toyota accounts for 11.2% of the market share for the automotive industry worldwide, selling more than 3.6 million vehicles each year. This is almost double the number sold by second-place Volkswagen. How did we get here? Let’s buckle up and find out.
1. Toyota Didn’t Start Out Making Cars. In Fact, It Wasn’t Even Called Toyota!
Sakichi Toyoda discovered something interesting. He could revolutionize the textile industry by inventing an automatic loom. His invention was able to stop itself if it detected a problem. This would help to reduce the use of fabric, since if it was being created improperly. It would have to be thrown out. He started making the Toyoda Model G Automatic Loom in 1924. With success came interest from larger companies, so Toyoda sold his invention to a British company in 1929, using the funds as seed capital for his real goal, starting a car company.
2. The First Toyota Vehicle Was Introduced in 1935
Toyoda spent the next six years of his life working on prototypes to produce a vehicle that would be affordable to the average Japanese family. After much hard work, the first Toyota vehicle rolled off the assembly line in 1935. The Toyoda G1 was a pickup truck designed to be similar to the ones being produced by Ford. However, Toyoda’s innovations allowed his company to produce a car at a fraction of the cost of Ford. This, in turn, allowed him to sell it for less than Ford trucks were selling in Japan at the time.
With the success of the G1 truck, Toyoda turned to producing passenger cars. His first one was the Model AA. Yes, that name might not have been an accident, as Toyoda was very impressed by the work of Henry Ford in Detroit. The car proved so successful that the Japanese government officially designated his company as an automotive manufacturer in September 1936.
3. A Name Change Necessitated by a Food Grain
Like most innovators, Sakichi Toyoda named his company after himself. This was similar to how brands like Dodge, Ford, Chevrolet, and Chrysler were taken from the names of their founders. However, there was just one problem. Toyoda’s family meant “fertile rice paddies.” While this would be perfect had he been making tractors or farming equipment, it wouldn’t work for a car company trying to project an image as a modern, innovative industry. So, the name was changed to Toyota in 1937. This kept the basis and connection to Toyoda’s family name without implying that his product belonged on his customers’ plates instead of their garages. Fortuitously, the name Toyota in Japanese replaced the syllable with one formed using eight brush strokes, which also implies good luck in Japanese.
4. California Dreaming Became a Reality in 1957
Eight years before the Mamas and the Papas would top the pop charts with their homage to the Golden State, Toyota would open its first office there in America. Calling the company Toyota Motor Sales, the company began importing its first vehicles, a pair of Toyopet Crown sedans brought over in 1957. A year later, the first Toyota dealership opened in Hollywood. This was worthy of a red carpet-premiere. By year’s end, Toyota would open four more dealerships in California.
5. The Toyota Corolla Rolls In
Sometimes, something big happens right under everyone’s noses. This was when Toyota introduced the Corolla in time for the 1969 model year. With so many folks looking at the moon, listening to Woodstock, or watching the Amazing Mets, it seems everyone missed this historical event. The compact Corolla coupe was cute, maneuverable, fuel-efficient, and affordable, all things drivers would come to know and love about Toyota. The Corolla has proven so successful that it is still being built today. However, from those humble beginnings grew a giant. Today, this model is offered as a compact sedan, a subcompact SUV, a hatchback, and a hybrid. From small things, big things one day come.
6. Toyota’s #1
The fact that Toyota is the top-selling brand in the world shouldn’t come as a surprise. This is something that has been building for a very long time. For example, in 1975, Toyota took over the top spot as the number one selling import automaker from Volkswagen, with over 300,000 vehicles sold to American drivers. It hasn’t lost this distinction since.
7. A Midsize Sedan Survivor Is Introduced in 1983
In the middle of the Reagan era in America, Toyota introduced a midsize sedan model that would be one of the company’s most successful. The Camry gives drivers a midsize sedan that has evolved from a typical mid-80s boxy look to the sleek, aerodynamic styling of the 21st Century. At the time of its introduction, most Americans drove midsize sedans. However, over the ensuing two decades, tastes changed, with pickup trucks and SUVs becoming the vehicles of choice for most Americans. Nevertheless, the Camry soldiered on, continuing its innovation and performance upgrades. Today, the top-selling midsize sedan in America is the Camry. To date, Toyota has sold over 150,000 Camry models here in the United States.
8. Born in the USA
Seeing its growing success in America, Toyota decided to move here permanently. Well, at least part of the company moved to America. In 1986, Toyota broke ground on a manufacturing facility in Kentucky and would begin producing Corolla models in the USA. With the success of the Kentucky plant, Toyota would expand operations here in America to the point where it now has engineering and manufacturing facilities in 12 different states, including California, Texas, and Michigan. Today, over 70% of Toyota vehicles sold in America are also made here.
9. Toyota Makes a Game Changer With the Prius
Before 2000, practically every passenger vehicle in America ran on either conventional gasoline or diesel fuel. This dependence on fossil fuels had economic and environmental implications for this country. Seeing this issue, the engineers at Toyota developed a way to reduce reliance on gasoline and automotive emissions by combining a conventional gas engine with an electric motor powered by a battery cell. The result was the Prius, the first commercially successful hybrid model, introduced to American drivers in 2000. The Prius proved so successful that other automakers followed suit, developing hybrid and BEV (battery electric models) that reduced or eliminated the need for petroleum fuel. This automotive revolution started with the Prius, a humble hybrid compact sedan in its fifth model generation.
10. Five of the Top 20 Best Selling Passenger Vehicles Are Made by Toyota
If you are driving a new or used Toyota RAV4, Camry, Tacoma, Highlander, or Corolla, then you can call yourself Mr. or MS. Popularity. That is because these five Toyota models rank among America’s 20 best-selling models. In other words, the odds are that 1 in 4 vehicles you see on the road was built by Toyota. Moreover, the RAV4, Camry, Highlander, and Corolla are all top sellers in their respective vehicle categories. This is a big reason why Toyota ranks as the top-selling vehicle manufacturer in the world today.
Own a Legacy With a Used Toyota
From its humble beginnings in the textile industry to its dominance as the top automaker, Toyota has always been about quality and affordability. This is why buying a used Toyota vehicle gives you a part of this legacy. It is also why you can rest assured that you are getting a car that is affordable, reliable, dependable, safe, and fun to drive.