15 Fascinating Facts About Toyota You Probably Didn't Know

Written by Jim Belt in Trucks

Toyota is one of the largest and most successful automakers in the world today. But the story behind this Japanese automotive giant is filled with many surprises and interesting facts that go far beyond just building reliable cars.

> Pop quiz: What product did the company originally manufacture before getting into the automobile business?
> A) Bicycles B) Sewing Machines
> C) Televisions D) Looms for weaving textiles

The correct answer is ... D) Looms for weaving textiles!

With that surprise out of the way, let's take a look at 15 more facts you didn't know:

15. It Started as a Loom Company

Toyota's origins actually trace back to 1926 when it was founded as the Toyoda Automatic Loom Works - a manufacturer of textile machinery like loom devices used for weaving fabrics.

14. The Logo Represents a Stylized Loom

The world-famous Toyota emblem with the three intersecting oval shapes is meant to stylistically represent a view of an old-fashioned loom as an homage to the company's roots.

13. Sewing Machines Came First

Before producing its first car, Toyota manufactured and sold sewing machines under the brand name Kemuri Loom from 1933-1935. These early models were considered high-quality workhorses.

12. First Gasoline-Powered Passenger Car in 1936

Toyota's first prototype gasoline-powered passenger car, called the AA model, debuted in 1936 after over a decade focused solely on loom production.

11. Headquarters Has Its Own Forest & Botanical Gardens

Toyota's main headquarter complex located in Toyota City, Japan is incredibly verdant and features vast nature trails, a forest and even botanical gardens spread across the massive campus.

10. The Millionth Vehicle Celebration

On reaching the milestone of producing 1 million vehicles in 1962, Toyota celebrated by building two special Publica convertibles covered entirely in white pearl.

9. California Prius Origins

While launched globally in 1997, early design and conception work on the iconic Toyota Prius hybrid actually first began in 1993 at the Toyota Technical Center in California.

8. Land Cruiser Comes From WWII Jeep

The legendary Toyota Land Cruiser off-road SUV can trace its design origins back to getting early inspiration and influence from the rugged World War II era American Jeep models.

7. First Japanese Car Company in NASCAR

Toyota made history in 2004 by becoming the first fully Japanese manufacturer brand to enter competition in NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series.

6. World's First Mass-Production Luxury Hybrid

In 2005, the Lexus RX 400h hit the market as the world's first luxury vehicle and first SUV to use a hybrid gasoline-electric powertrain in mass production.

5. The Robot Talent Show

Toyota hosts an annual "Robot Talent Show" where employees design and build unique robotic creations to showcase the company's advanced robotics technologies.

4. Owns a Major Alphabet Stake

As part of building autonomous driving systems, Toyota invested $500 million in Uber acquiring shares, and also owns a 5.6% stake in Google parent company Alphabet.

3. Built War Trucks During WWII

During World War II from 1936-1939, Toyota's production facilities were focused solely on building military trucks for the Japanese imperial forces.

2. Licensed VW Technology Early On

In its early years, Toyota licensed some automotive technologies including floor pans, air-cooled horizontally-opposed engines and suspension designs directly from Volkswagen.

1. Deadliest Vehicle Attack

Unfortunately, one of the most tragic events in Toyota history was when an extremist plowed a truck through a crowded street in Nice, France in 2016 killing 86 people in a terrorist attack.

From sewing machines to robotics, luxury hybrids to tragic events, Toyota's story is a compelling and multifaceted one spanning nearly a century of history, innovation and growth into becoming the world's largest automaker. These surprising facts reveal an intriguing portrait behind this automotive juggernaut.