Toyota announced today that Shoichiro Toyoda has died of heart failure at the age of 97. A funeral service will be held for close family, but the automaker says it plans to hold a farewell gathering to honor the long-serving executive at a later date. Shoichiro Toyoda is survived by his son Akio Toyoda who stepped down as Toyota’s CEO last month but still serves as chairman of the board.
The son of Toyota founder Kiichiro Toyoda, Shoichiro Toyoda was still serving as Toyota’s honorary chairman at the time of his death. Reuters reports that Toyoda joined his father’s company in 1952, and is arguably responsible for the success of the Toyota Motor Corporation that we know today. In addition to his dedication to build quality and reliability, he was also responsible for the creation of Lexus and the original Prius.
After initially failing to successfully bring the Toyota Crown to the U.S., Toyoda later became one of the executives put in charge of the automaker’s new “total quality control” system. Toyota’s focus on quality not only earned it a reputation for impressive reliability but also inspired other automakers to adopt similar practices. Following his success in improving quality, Toyoda was named a managing director in 1961, and 20 years later, he became the head of Toyota’s sales organization.
After the automaker merged its sales and production divisions to create today’s Toyota Motor Corporation, Toyoda served as chairman from 1992 until 1999. At the time of his death, he had been on the board for 57 years, making him the automaker’s longest-serving board member.
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Outside of his work for Toyota, Toyoda also served as the head of Keidanren, Japan’s pro-business lobbying group, where he advocated for lower taxes and the deregulation of growing industries such as cell phones.