It’s not a typo. Akio Toyoda is the grandson of Kiichiro Toyoda. Toyota, the name of the world’s largest carmaker currently embroiled in recalls and Congressional Hearings, stems from a family member’s belief in good luck.
The original name of the car was Toyoda. But in 1937, Toyoda had a public competition to design a new logo. The winning entry of 27,000 was the three Japanese katakana letters for Toyoda (トヨダ) in a circle.
But family member Risaburo Toyoda (her married name is Toyoda) preferred the word Toyota (トヨタ). It took eight brush strokes, two less than Toyoda. Eight is also a number of good fortune in Japan.
But there’s more. The literal translation of Toyoda is “fertile rice paddies.” Toyota was also adopted to distance the company from old-fashioned farming methods. It was trademarked and the company was registered in August 1937 as the “Toyota Motor Company.”
In some countries, including the United States, the manufacturer’s smallest vehicles were sold under the name Toyopet. The name wasn’t well-received (it sounded like a pet animal’s name) and by the early 1960s, the Toyota name became globally unified.
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Article Last Updated: February 24, 2010.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.