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December 8, 1945: Toyota Resumes Production

Posted December 08, 2006 6:00 AM by Steve Melito

Sixty-one years ago today, the Toyota Motor Corporation received permission from Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Allied Commander in the Southwest Pacific, to resume production of buses and trucks. Four years after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the American general presided over the Allied occupation of Japan and American efforts to rebuild the island nation's economy. Japan's surrender on September 2, 1945 had resulted in the shuttering of wartime industries such as Toyota, which had produced vehicles such as the Toyota KB and the Type-1 4 x 2 Toyota GB. Introduced in 1941, the Toyota KB was a mass-produced, 2-ton truck that resembled its civilian predecessor, the Toyota KC, but featured a khaki paint job. With a loading capacity of 1.5 tons, the 4 x 4 included a 63 PS gasoline engine and achieved maximum speeds of 43.5 mph. The Type-1 4 x 2 Toyota GB was based on the Toyota Motor Corporation's first truck, the 1.5-ton G1, a vehicle which shared basic components with the company's A1 auto and used an overhead valve, six-cylinder engine.

The Allied occupation of Japan lasted until 1952, when the San Francisco Peace Treaty took effect and Japan once again became an independent state. As Japan prepared to chart a new course, the Toyota Motor Corporation applied lessons learned during the post-war period. In 1940, the U.S. War Department had instituted the Training Within Industry (TWI) program to provide process improvement consulting and employee development services to war-related industries. Although the War Department abandoned the TWI program in 1945, its instructional methods were introduced in occupied Japan. Taiichi Ohno, father of the famed Toyota Production System, used TWI to help form the basis of kaizen culture and lean manufacturing. Years later, a Toyota trainer allegedly shared an old TWI service manual with an American automaker to prove that "Japanese" production methods could be used in the United States. Today, Toyota is the world's largest automaker in terms of value.

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