Section 2. Automobile Prototypes
Item 1. Establishment of an Automotive Production Division
The addition of a spinning machine business to Toyoda Automatic Loom Works' existing automatic loom business led to a rise in the company's performance, and the future was looking bright. Kiichiro Toyoda seized this opportunity to establish the Automotive Production Division on September 1, 1933, and began preparing to build prototype vehicles. While the division was not officially a part of the company organization, its members were a team that had been studying and researching vehicles under Kiichiro, and the unit began developing vehicle prototypes in earnest.
In preparation for the establishment of the Automotive Production Division, Kiichiro sent director Risaburo Oshima to the U.S. and Europe in June 1933 to purchase machine tools for automotive production that had been studied beforehand. Oshima traveled from Yokohama to the United States with director Rizo Suzuki on what was officially an "overseas inspection", returning to Japan in March 1934 having purchased the desired machine tools.1
Meanwhile, Kiichiro studied the basic design of the prototype vehicle, and decided on a design that used common parts, so that customers could use service parts for the Ford and Chevrolet vehicles that were prevalent in Japan at the time. In essence, he incorporated concepts from the basic engine design of the Chevrolet and the sturdy truck chassis of Ford vehicles. For passenger cars, he referenced the cutting-edge streamlined body and chassis of the Chrysler DeSoto.
In October 1933 Kiichiro took apart a 1933 model Chevrolet passenger car and sketched the parts (measurements, drawings). While studying the components that comprised a vehicle, he created a blueprint for a prototype engine. Furthermore, the following year Kiichiro purchased 1934 model DeSoto and Chevrolet passenger vehicles and used them as a reference for his design. Disassembled parts were tested to identify materials, strength and rigidity. In addition, Japanese manufacturers of imitation parts for foreign vehicles and material suppliers were investigated.
As the company had absolutely no experience in the automotive industry, people with relevant experience were recruited. Takatoshi Kan, who had worked on the Atsuta vehicle during the Chukyo Detroit Project, joined Toyoda Automatic Loom Works in November 1933, and Higuma Ikenaga, who had been involved in development and manufacture of the Otomo vehicle at Hakuyosha Company, was hired in March 1934. Recruitment of people with automotive industry experience continued in following years with the hiring of former GM-Japan employees Shotaro Kamiya, Shikanosuke Hanazaki and Seishi Kato in 1935, and Tomotsune Jiromaru and Kiemon Sawa in 1936, as well as former Hakuyosha Company employees Shisaburo Kurata in 1936 and Shuji Ono in 1937. Seigo Ito, a high school and university friend of Kiichiro who had worked on development of three-wheeled vehicles at Nippon Air Brake Co., Ltd., also joined the company in May 1937.