Former Toyota President Tatsuro Toyoda Dies at 88

Toyoda played a major role in the company's expansion during the 1980s and 1990s.

Toyota Motor North America

Tatsuro Toyoda, the former Toyota president who led the company's expansion into a global powerhouse, has died at age 88. He died of pneumonia on Dec. 30, the company said in a statement.

In his 20s, Toyoda earned a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Tokyo and an MBA from New York University in 1958. A son of the company's founder, Toyoda helped drive Toyota's international expansion in the 1980s and 1990s. 

Toyoda was the first president of New United Motor Manufacturing, the joint venture Toyota launched with General Motors in 1984 to build cars in California. Better known as NUMMI, the venture involved building cars in what is now Tesla's Fremont factory.

NUMMI helped demonstrate that Toyota's efficiency-focused production methods could be exported, and paved the way for a greater Toyota presence in the United States. Toyoda is credited with helping to bridge the gap between Japanese and American business cultures. Today, Toyota has 10 U.S. manufacturing sites, and likely understands the U.S. market better than any other foreign automaker.

Toyoda was president of Toyota from 1992 to 1995. After stepping down, he held a variety of other posts at the company, including an advisory role. The company was run by presidents from outside the Toyoda family until 2009 when Akio Toyoda, Tatsuro Toyoda's nephew, took over. The company name is spelled with a "t" instead of a "d" because that is considered to be luckier in Japanese culture.

A private funeral was held by close relatives for Toyoda before his death was publicly announced, a company statement said. A Toyota representative said in an email that the company plans to hold a farewell gathering for Mr. Toyoda at a later date. Toyoda is survived by his wife, Ayako Toyoda.