Our History

The Toyota success story is built on innovation, both in terms of its products and the processes by which they are made.

In 1918, Sakichi Toyoda revolutionised the weaving industry with his invention of an automatic loom. The proceeds from the sale of his patent to a British firm – Platt Brothers of Oldham – provided his son Kiichiro with the finances to make a start in the developing car industry. The pioneering work practices that Sakichi had developed for his loom business were easily adapted to the new automotive operation and in 1936 the first prototype car, the Toyoda AA, was completed.

The following year the Toyota Motor Corporation was formed. The name change from Toyoda was decided by a competition; the name Toyota was favoured, in part, because it comprises eight strokes in Japanese script, considered a lucky number. Toyota had a tough time establishing itself, as the Japanese car market was dominated by American imports from Ford and General Motors. World War II also threatened to destroy the enterprise, but Toyota survived.

 The Toyoda Model AA front side view

In the 1950s Toyota laid the foundations for a new system of manufacturing vehicles. This was developed into the Toyota Production System, an exceptionally efficient set of principles that have been widely used and adapted within the motor industry and beyond.

At the same time as it was honing its manufacturing processes, Toyota was also looking closely at how to design and engineer more desirable and competitive products for international markets. Sales companies were set up in Taiwan and Saudi Arabia before overseas production began, albeit on a small scale, in Brazil in 1959.

The Toyoda Model AA windscreen
The Toyoda Model AA window winders

In the early 1960s Toyota began exporting cars to Europe, first to Denmark. In 1965 it entered the UK market, launching the Corona saloon at the Earls Court Motor Show. The following year the original Corolla was launched, the debut of what was destined to become the world’s most successful model range with sales of more than 39 million worldwide (as of May 2012).

Its European manufacturing activities continue to grow. The UK has the distinction of having been chosen by Toyota for the location of its first European manufacturing centres, with a car plant in Burnaston, Derbyshire, and an engine factory in Deeside, North Wales, both of which came on stream in 1992.

Toyota Corolla, exterior White, front side view, black & white background.

The first model to be built at Burnaston – and the first Toyota car to be built in Europe – was the Carina E. This was followed in 1997 by the first generation Avensis and, from 1998, hatchback versions of the Corolla. In 2007 Corolla production made way for five-door versions of Toyota’s Auris hatchback. Burnaston remains the exclusive global production centre for Avensis, and is now also the exclusive manufacturing centre for Toyota’s next-generation Auris.


Toyota’s interests have not been confined to the automotive sector. Beyond its original textile weaving business, the company has expanded into prefabricated housing, telecommunications, forestry and boat- building. Toyota currently has 52 overseas manufacturing companies, in 27 countries and regions worldwide. Its vehicles are sold in more than 160 countries and regions.

The Toyoda Model AA interior dashboard
Toyota Corolla, interior, close-up of dashboard.
Toyota New Avensis, interior, steering wheel close up

For a more detailed journey through Toyota’s history from Textiles to Automobiles, follow this link:



Toyota (GB) PLC is the company responsible for sales, marketing, after sales and customer relations for Toyota and Lexus in the UK, employing around 400 people at a landmark headquarters building in Surrey. The sales performance over the past decade has consolidated the UK’s position as one of Toyota’s strongest European markets. The manufacturing operations in the UK at Burnaston and Deeside are run by Toyota Motors UK (TMUK), a sister company to TGB. Toyota began importing vehicles into the UK in 1965 through an agreement with a small family firm, Pride and Clark. In 1967 the company changed its name to Toyota (GB) Ltd and in 1978 became part of the Inchcape group, a public company with international interests in a wide range of automotive businesses. In 1998, Toyota’s agreement with Inchcape came to an end and Toyota Motor Corporation took a 51 per cent majority shareholding in Toyota (GB) Ltd. In 1999, the company became a Public Limited Company and in 2000 TMC took complete ownership of Toyota (GB) PLC.

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