Eiji Toyoda, engineer who helped build Toyota, dies at 100

Eiji Toyoda, a member of Japanese automaker Toyota's founding family who helped create the super-efficient "Toyota Way" production method, has died. He was 100.

Pioneered 'just-in-time' production method

Eiji Toyoda stands in front of a Chevrolet Nova on the assembly line at the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc., or NUMMI, plant in Fremont, Calif., in April 1985. Toyoda, as chairman of the Japanese automaker Toyota helped set up the plant, a partnership with General Motors Co. (Paul Sakuma/Associated Press)

Eiji Toyoda, a member of Japanese automaker Toyota's founding family who helped create the super-efficient "Toyota Way" production method, has died. He was 100.

Toyoda, a cousin of Toyota's founder, Kiichiro Toyoda, died Tuesday of heart failure at Toyota Memorial Hospital in Toyota city, central Japan, Toyota said in a statement.

Eiji Toyoda served as president from 1967 to 1982, engineering Toyota's growth into a global automaker. He became chairman in 1982 and continued in advisory positions up to his death.

He spent his early years on the shop floor and helped pioneer Toyota's reputed just-in-time production to cut waste and empower workers to strive for continuous improvement, or "kaizen."

Pushed luxury brands

A graduate of the prestigious University of Tokyo with a degree in mechanical engineering, he joined Toyoda Automatic Loom Works in 1936.

Toyota started out as a loom maker, founded by Kiichiro Toyoda's father, Sakichi. Eiji Toyoda's father was Sakichi's brother.

During his years at the helm of what is now the world's biggest automaker, Eijji Toyoda led the development of the Toyota Corolla, which has become one of the best-selling cars of all time. He also pushed Toyota to develop luxury vehicles, which later became the Lexus brand.

One of Japan's most respected businessmen, Toyoda was also one of the main figures to forge Toyota's partnership with General Motors Co. to set up a joint plant in Fremont, Calif., called New United Motor Manufacturing (NUMMI) in 1984. NUMMI closed in 2010.

Toyoda is survived by his three sons, Kanshiro, Tetsuro and Shuhei, all executives at Toyota affiliates. A private family funeral is planned.

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