Shoichiro Toyoda, who made Toyota a global automaker, dead at 97

Shoichiro Toyoda, grandson of Toyota founder Sikichi Toyoda and son of Kiichiro Toyoda, who transformed the tooling company into an automaker, is dead at 97. Shoichiro grew the company from a local brand into the world's largest and most successful, and formalized its legendary quality control and managerial philosophies. However many nines your consumer products have, you owe some of them to the Toyodas.

After serving as president of Toyota Motor Sales Co. under the Toyota group, he became the first president of what is now Toyota Motor Corp., a new company formed after the merger of its manufacturing and sales companies in 1982. He held the position until 1992 when he became chairman. Toyoda propelled overseas production on the back of Japan's economic growth, with Toyota, headquartered in Aichi Prefecture, setting up a joint venture with General Motors Co. in the United States in 1984. Plants in Kentucky and Canada were built in 1986, significantly boosting the company's production capacity. It was also in the 1980s when Toyota actively expanded beyond the North American market.

For those wondering at the company name's differing romanization, there appears to be an official reason and an unofficial reason:

"Toyota" (トヨタ) … took eight brush strokes (a lucky number) to write in Japanese, was visually simpler (leaving off the diacritic at the end), and with a voiceless consonant instead of a voiced one (voiced consonants are considered to have a "murky" or "muddy" sound compared to voiceless consonants, which are "clear").

Since toyoda literally means "fertile rice paddies", changing the name also prevented the company from being associated with old-fashioned farming.