Shoichiro Toyoda, former Toyota chief and son of founder, dies at 97

TOKYO, Japan: The son of Toyota Motor Corporation founder Shoichiro Toyoda died on February 14 of heart failure at the age of 97.

He is also the father of current chief executive Akio Toyoda.

Toyoda, who joined Toyota in 1952, presided over the Japanese automaker’s expansion into manufacturing in the United States, the launch of the luxury Lexus brand and the Prius hybrid, along with the global recognition for pioneering a new model for quality control in manufacturing.

"Shoichiro Toyoda raised Toyota to become the world’s top automaker," Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said in a statement of condolence.

Toyoda, who studied engineering as a graduate student at Tohoku University, said he never forgot his father’s reminder that "an engineer belongs on the factory floor."

His first job at Toyota, he recalled, was inspecting cars that had been returned due to defects.

Toyoda was named a managing director at Toyota in 1961 for his work on quality controls. In 1981, he was named to head Toyota’s sales organization.

Following a merger of production and sales organizations one year later, he took over the helm of the newly integrated Toyota Motor Corp, serving as chairman from 1992 to 1999.