Toyota Motors Corporation (TMC) is the largest automaker in the world by volume, having overtaken American giant General Motors in 2009 with its sale of over 7.2 million vehicles. It is also the 8th largest company in the world, and employs over 320,000 people. The Toyota group also includes Lexus, Scion, Hino and Daihatsu. The company was started in 1934 by Kiichiro Toyoda as a division of his father’s company and in 1937 was spun off to become an independent company. Interestingly, the company name was changed because in the Japanese language it takes eight brushstrokes to write ‘Toyota’ (8 is considered a lucky number in Japan). The company’s global headquarters is called Toyota City in Aichi, Japan. Toyota City is so large it is considered a town in its own right.
Toyota is known as a maker of mass-market cars for the ordinary person. The Corolla has overtaken the Volkswagen Beetle as the most successful car of all time, having totalled over 30million units since inception. The cars were also until recently known for their reliability, but that reputation suffered a serious blow in 2009/ 2010 when a series of defects forced massive recalls of Toyota cars throughout the world. Most serious was a problem with sticking accelerator pedals, and the U.S. government slapped Toyota with a hefty multimillion dollar fine for ignoring safety red flags before allowing the vehicles to go on sale. Toyota produces some iconic car models, for example the Landcruiser is a symbol of peacekeeping efforts worldwide, especially when emblazoned with the United Nations initials on its side. The Hilux is a workhorse transport machine, and the Top Gear car programme dedicated a show to demonstrate its indestructibility. The Prius is the poster child for green driving.
Toyota’s New Zealand range starts with the Aurion, a sporty version of the Camry midsize sedan. Camry is also available as a hybrid. The Avensis is a large family sedan. The Corolla is a compact all-purpose sedan that really needs no introduction. The Highlander is a midsize SUV also called the Kluger in other markets. The Hilux is a much-loved 1-ton pickup truck, available in single or dual cab designs. The Landcruiser is sold as two separate models, the Landcruiser proper, sometimes called Amazon which is a large SUV, and the Prado which is slightly smaller. The Previa is a stylish MPV that seats 8. The Prius is the best-selling and most famous hybrid car- it has even become something of a celebrity in its own right. The RAV4 is a compact soft-roader SUV, and the Yaris is a small hatchback.