KARIYA, Japan—Toyota Motor Corp. unveiled to the media last week its historic plant here, which is where the company’s first prototype vehicle was developed in the early years of the Showa era (1926-1989). Called “The Prototype Plant at the Establishment of Toyota,” it has an atmosphere of the early days of the domestic auto industry. The plant will open to the public from July 18.
It was at this plant in 1935 that Kiichiro Toyoda, the founder of Toyota and grandfather of current Toyota President Akio Toyoda, developed a prototype automobile, a model for the company’s first mass-produced cars. The plant can be said to be the starting point from which the Toyota Group expanded into the automobile industry from its original loom manufacturing business.
Currently, the plant is located on the premises of a factory belonging to group-owned firm Aichi Steel Corp. and was set to be demolished due to concerns over earthquake resistance and other problems. However, when Toyota executives visited the site in 2016, they decided to preserve the building as “a place retaining the spirit of the founding period.” In May, the government recognized the plant’s historic value by citing the building as an example of “functionality-oriented industrial architecture from the early Showa era” and designated it as a national tangible cultural asset.