The company we know as Toyota today began by making textile looms around the turn of century 20th century. Owner Sakichi Toyoda invented a groundbreaking wooden handloom in 1890 and an automatic loom in 1924. The company found much success in the loom business and sought to expand.
Seeking to establish an automobile division, Sakichi’s son Kiichiro traveled abroad in 1929, learning everything he could about automobiles. A year later, the company began researching gasoline engines. An automobile division was officially established in 1933. Soon after that, Toyota made its first automobile product, the Type A engine and then its first passenger car, the Toyota AA.
The late 1940s proved to be a difficult period for the automaker. Help eventually came in the form of the US military who purchased over 5,000 vehicles from Toyota, but not until the Korean War. The purchase helped Toyota to stay afloat. This resurgence is evidenced by the fact that in 1957, the automaker exported its first model, the Crown, to the United States. And that same year, Toyota divisions were established in both North America and Brazil.
Toyota began to grow considerably. The company reached a major milestone in 1962 when they produced 1 million domestic vehicles. By 1969, Toyota had cumulatively exported 1 million vehicles.
The 1980s and 1990s saw the arrival of many models that remain highly popular today. America’s most popular and reliable family sedan, the Toyota Camry (at the time it was called the Celica Camry), debuted in 1980. In 1994, the world’s first compact SUV, the Toyota RAV4, debuted, and a year later, the Toyota Avalon appeared. In 1997 the world’s first mass-produced hybrid vehicle, the Toyota Prius, arrived.
Toyota’s presence in the United States is quite strong. The company has six manufacturing plants in the United States, and, by 2012, cumulative production in the US had reached 25 million units. That same year, Toyota was recognized as being the world’s largest automaker, in terms of production.