No other brand in the world sells more passenger vehicles than Toyota, a Japanese manufacturer with a truly global presence. Founded in 1937, Toyota established its U.S. base 20 years later and now rivals Ford and Chevrolet in sales.
Toyota Motors traces its origins to a Japanese loom company operated by Kiichiro Toyoda. In 1933 the company established an automobile department and began work on a prototype car. A sedan and a truck were built by the loom company in 1935 before the first Toyoda model was released two years later. Toyota Motor Co., Ltd. was established in 1937 with the spelling variation chosen because it was shorter in the native language and it sounded better.
Throughout World War II, Toyota developed several new models, increasing production in the late 1940s and strengthening its position well into the 1950s. One of its earlier vehicles was a Jeep-licensed model that was the predecessor to the current Toyota Land Cruiser.
In 1958, the first Toyota models were sold in the U.S. and comprised of a few hundred Toyopet Crown sedans and one Land Cruiser. In 1965, the Toyota Corona was introduced, a model specifically designed for the U.S. market. Three years later the Toyota Corolla was introduced, which later became the best-selling car in the world.
Throughout the 1970s, Toyota continued to grow and soon overtook Volkswagen as the top import brand in the United States. U.S. manufacturers also realized that they had a strong competitor on their hands, since Toyota was manufacturing small vehicles that General Motors, Ford and Chrysler were unable to match.
By the 1980s, Toyota started building manufacturing plants in North America. The company also launched the Celica Camry, later renamed the Toyota Camry, which became the best-selling car in America. New models introduced included the Toyota 4Runner SUV, the subcompact Tercel, a small pickup truck and a van.
Toyota continued to challenge the domestic producers by expanding its product line to new segments. Among its earlier models included the Toyota MR2, a mid-engine, rear-wheel drive sports car and competitor to the Mazda Miata. That model was joined by the Toyota Supra, a 2+2 sport coupe.
In the 1990s, the Toyota Avalon was released, a larger model designed to take on full-size American sedans. Its first larger pickup truck, the Toyota T100 was also introduced, as well the Toyota Previa minivan.
By the new millennium, Toyota was in the hybrid market with its first Prius model. The Toyota Prius enabled the brand to strengthen its presence in an emerging segment, extending hybrid variants to additional models.
Toyota also welcomed several new models, including its RAV4, Highlander and Sequoia SUVs, as well as its Sienna minivan and two pickup trucks: Tacoma and Tundra.
In more recent years other models arrived, including the Toyota FJ Cruiser, offering styling cues based on the earlier FJ40. In addition, the subcompact Toyota Yaris came to the market as well as the Toyota Venza crossover SUV. The company’s first fuel-cell model, the Toyota Mirai, was released in 2015.
Main Toyota competitors include Chevrolet, Honda, Ford and Nissan. Other brands to consider include Buick, GMC, Dodge, Jeep, Ram, Fiat, Chrysler, Volkswagen, Mazda, Subaru, Mitsubishi, Hyundai and Kia.