Eiji Toyoda, who as a member of Toyota Motor's founding family and an architect of its "lean manufacturing" method helped turned the automaker into a global powerhouse and changed the face of modern manufacturing, died on Tuesday in Toyota City, Japan, where the company has its headquarters. He was 100.
His death, at the Toyota Memorial Hospital, was caused by heart failure, the company said in a statement.
Mr. Toyoda, a nephew of the Toyota Group founder, Sakichi Toyoda, was president of Toyota from 1967 to 1982 and continued as chairman and then as adviser until his death. In almost six decades with the company he helped transform a tiny spinoff of a textile loom maker into the world's biggest automaker.
Early on, he helped put Toyota at the forefront of a wave of automobile production in Japan, pushing it to bolster its lineup, first by adding compact vehicles and sports cars in the 1960s and 1970s. In the 1980s he initiated the development of luxury models to compete with the likes of Mercedes-Benz and BMW, culminating with the Lexus brand in 1989.
Mr. Toyoda also pushed Toyota's expansion overseas, helping to establish the company's joint factory with General Motors in Fremont, Calif. The plant, known as Nummi, introduced Japanese lean-production methods to the United States as part of a migration of Japanese auto manufacturing to American soil. The company's manufacturing efficiencies have helped maintain Toyota's status as one of the top auto manufacturers and employers in the world.
Nummi closed in 2010. It is now the site of a factory that makes the electric car trailblazer Tesla Motor.
In the early 1990s, it was Mr. Toyoda, known as a man of few words, who gave voice to a sense of crisis inside the company as Japan's economic growth sputtered, arguing that Toyota needed to change the way it made cars if it hoped to survive in the 21st century. His urgings prompted the development of its popular Prius gas-electric hybrid, the manufacturing expert Satoshi Hino wrote in the 2005 book "Inside the Mind of Toyota."
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Mr. Toyoda was born on Sept. 12, 1913, near Nagoya in central Japan, the second son of Heikichi and Nao Toyoda. He spent much of his youth at his family's textile mill and took an early interest in machines, he said in his 1988 autobiography, "Toyota: Fifty Years in Motion." He graduated from the University of Tokyo in 1936 with a mechanical engineering degree and joined his family's loom business.
The following year, Kiichiro Toyoda, son of the founder, created Toyota Motor, taking the young Eiji Toyoda with him.
Assigned to a division devoted to resolving quality problems, Mr. Toyoda is said to have developed an uncanny ability to spot waste.
"Problems are rolling all around in front of your eyes," Mr. Toyoda said of those days in "Inside the Mind of Toyota." "Whether you pick them up and treat them as problems is a matter of habit. If you have the habit, then you can do whatever you have a mind to."
In 1950 he set out on what would turn out to be a pivotal three-month tour to survey Ford's Rouge plant in Detroit, then the largest and most efficient factory in the world. Before the war, the military government prevented Toyota from building passenger cars, compelling it to make trucks for Japan's war effort instead.
By 1950, Toyota had produced just 2,685 automobiles, compared with the 7,000 vehicles the Rouge plant was rolling out in a single day, according to "The Machine That Changed the World," a 1990 study by James P. Womack, Daniel T. Jones and Daniel Roos.