While his cousin and son got in before he did, Toyota Motor Company founder Kiichiro Toyoda will this year take his place alongside them in the Automotive Hall of Fame, as will the two brothers who got more gearheads to listen to NPR than anybody else, Tom and Ray Magliozzi.
“Each (of these individuals) made their unique vision a reality through tenacity, creativity and foresight; traits that still drive the industry’s evolution today,” Ramzi Hermiz, chairman of the Automotive Hall of Fame, said in a press release.
Toyoda’s unique vision came in 1933 after he convinced his father, Sakichi, founder of the Toyoda Loom Works and Toyoda Industries, to allow him to create an automobile division within the company. He began with a passenger car, and though he only built a few prototypes before focusing on trucks, those circa 1935 prototypes for the most part set the course for the company’s first production vehicles, released in 1936. Power came from a licensed version of Chevrolet’s 207-cu.in. Stovebolt six-cylinder, mounted in a chassis similar to Ford products of the Thirties and under the hood of a downsized copy of the Chrysler Airflow.
With the release of the production AA, Toyoda not only established the automaker as its own business separate from his father’s, he also changed the name from Toyoda to Toyota. The change in spelling came in part from a desire to simplify the company’s name in katakana character representation and in part from the number of brushstrokes required for Toyota rather than Toyoda in katakana: eight, considered a lucky number.
Toyoda oversaw the company’s initial growth and, after becoming president of Toyota in 1941, helmed it through World War II, during which the company produced trucks for the Japanese Army. He then quit as president in 1950, reportedly after a labor dispute, and died two years later at the age of 57. His cousin, Eiji Toyoda, later rose to the company’s presidency and oversaw Toyota’s expansion into the United States; Kiichiro Toyoda’s son, Shoichiro Toyoda, also helmed the company as it expanded into the luxury market with Lexus and into hybrid vehicles with the Prius.
As for Tom and Ray Magliozzi, the brothers’ automotive creativity dates back to 1973, when they opened Hackers Heaven in Boston, a do-it-yourself garage where the brothers offered advice and assistance to their customers. Four years later, they began to appear on Boston NPR station WBUR to offer their advice and their self-deprecating humor. Their radio appearances became regularly scheduled in 1987 with the founding of Car Talk – “much to the chagrin of the folks at NPR,” as they would quip – a show that would last until 2012 and become one of NPR’s most widely distributed and beloved programs. Tom, the elder of the brothers by 12 years, died in 2014 at the age of 77.
This year’s class of Automotive Hall of Fame inductees will also include Mike Jackson, president of auto retailer AutoNation, and Frank Stronach, founder of OEM supplier Magna International. The induction ceremony will take place July 19 at the MGM Grand Detroit. For more information, visit AutomotiveHallofFame.org.