The resulting recession had a direct impact on the automotive industry, making it difficult to obtain funds and requiring companies to revise production plans and cut back staff. This resulted in regular conflicts with labor unions, and in April of 1950 Toyota suffered a large-scale strike. The dispute was eventually resolved in June, after a major management shuffle. However, production levels dropped during the strike, and the monthly production during that time was only a few hundred units per month. This period was truly one of the most difficult periods for Toyota as a company. On June 25 of 1950 the North Korean (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) suddenly invaded the South Korean (Republic of Korea), and the Korean War had begun.
At that time Japan was still under the influence of America, centering on the occupation forces of the United States military, for which Japan played a role as a supply base, and with the Korean War all military production went into full time operation. Orders were issued by the headquarters of the occupying forces for large numbers of military trucks. This was a special demand tied directly to the Korean War.
When the National Police Reserve Forces (now called the Japan Self-Defense Forces) was first established it depended entirely on the U.S. Military for all of its equipment, however very quickly it was urged that domestic sources of supply be developed. Part of the motivation was to create a base in Japan through which the U.S. Military could procure military vehicles for use throughout the Asia region, but Japanese automakers were asked to produce prototypes for compact 4x4 trucks and other vehicles.
In response Toyota began designing such vehicles in August of the same year, and by January of 1951 had produced a prototype. The prototype was a truck with a B-type gasoline powered water-cooled in-line 6-cylinder 3,386cc engine, installed on a SB-type 1-ton truck chassis.
At the time there were many Jeeps being driven in Japan, which had been brought in by the occupying forces, and the Jeep came to be the symbol of the 4x4. For this reason Toyota called its prototype the Toyota Jeep, and by combining a B-type engine with a Jeep model it was known as the BJ.
However, the vehicle which was ultimately selected for procurement by the National Police Reserve Forces was the Willys Jeep. The Toyota Jeep BJ had been rejected on this project, but in July of the same year test driver Ichiro Taira did a test run under the supervision of officials from the National Police Agency, and performed brilliantly, climbing by car all the way up to the No. 6 checkpoint on Mt. Fuji. The test run was viewed favorably, and in August this model was officially adopted as the patrol car for the National Police Agency.
However, large-scale production of the Toyota Jeep did not begin until August of 1953. It took 2 years from the decision to adopt the prototype to get ready for full-scale production, most of the time being required for detailed decisions on the specs and on price negotiations. But orders were placed in blocks covering the fiscal year, as one would expect from a government agency. In the first year 298 Toyota Jeep BJs rolled off the production line. Later, in addition to the patrol car for the National Police Agency, Toyota also received orders from the Forestry and Agricultural Agency and from Electric Power companies.
The next year in June of 1954, responding to claims of trademark violation by the Willys Company that produced the original Jeep, then Director of Technology Hanji Umehara renamed this 4-wheeled vehicle as the Land Cruiser. The rest as they say is history, as the Land Cruiser demonstrated global competitiveness with its rival models, and its success proved it to be truly worthy of its name.
Sakichi Toyoda founded the Toyoda Automatic Loom Works, Ltd., to which he dedicated his entire career. Successor to the intelligence and active spirit of his father, Kiichiro Toyoda established the company in the automotive industry. His dream was to produce an automobile that could gain acceptance throughout the world, and certainly Toyota has taken that major step.