The Toyota success story is built on innovation, both in terms of its products and the processes by which they are created.
Back in 1918, Sakichi Toyoda revolutionised the weaving industry with his invention of an automatic loom. The proceeds from the sale of his patent to a British firm – Platt Brothers of Oldham – provided his son Kiichiro with the finances to make a start in the developing car industry. The pioneering work practices that Sakichi had developed for his loom business were easily adapted to the new automotive operation and in 1936 the first prototype car, the Toyoda AA, was completed.
The following year the Toyota Motor Corporation was formed. The name change from Toyoda was decided by a competition; the name Toyota was favoured, in part, because it comprises eight strokes in Japanese script, considered a lucky number. Toyota had a tough time establishing itself, as the Japanese car market was dominated by American imports from Ford and General Motors. World War II also threatened to destroy the enterprise, but Toyota survived.
When it comes to Malta, in 1952 local businessman Michael Debono set up operations in a garage on Freedom Avenue, Zebbug, six years later Michael built the Debono Service Station, also in Zebbug, selling petrol under the BP License and he also began importing from Japan – Yuasa batteries, Yokohama tyres, Tohatsu Marine Engines, Nivico radios and Amano time recording machines.
In 1959 Michael’s interest in Toyota piqued after reading an article about their work, this prompted him to write and enquire about the possibility of importing Toyota vehicles to Malta. Needless to say, the outcome was successful, as the first Toyota arrived in August 1960. This was a Toyopet Crown Deluxe sold to Mr P. Farrugia for Lm980. Michael made history, as this was first Toyota to be sold in Europe. Following this success, the first Toyota Corolla was imported in August 1967; it has proved to be an iconic car ever since.
Toyota’s interests have not been limited to the automotive sector. Beyond its original textile weaving business, the company has expanded into prefabricated housing, telecommunications, forestry and boat-building. Toyota currently has 52 overseas manufacturing companies, in 27 countries and regions worldwide. Its vehicles are sold in more than 160 countries and regions.
The first model to be built at Burnaston – and the first Toyota car to be built in Europe – was the Carina E. This was followed in 1997 by the first generation Avensis and, from 1998, hatchback versions of the Corolla. In 2007 Corolla production made way for five-door versions of Toyota’s Auris hatchback. Burnaston remains the exclusive global production centre for Avensis, and is now also the exclusive manufacturing centre for Toyota’s next-generation Auris.
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