There was probably no single "a-ha!" moment at which the Toyota board of directors decided to go to a full vehicle lineup in the United States. That evolved over years. What wasn't pushed by executives in Japan was pulled by dealers and sales execs here.
But the intent to build in high volume was there from the beginning.
Dave Power, 76, the founder of J.D. Power and Associates, recalls his first visit to Japan in 1968 and his surprise at finding an unusual chart on a wall in a Toyota plant. It was tucked away near the administration section, where the average worker was not likely to see it.
"I had to bow my head to get in the door. The doors in the offices were under 6 feet. The doorjamb was at eye level. The chart looked like it was hand-done," he says.
The chart displayed three columns that indicated U.S. sales for General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, from 1968 through the 1980s. A fourth column "had Toyota coming out of nowhere," Power says, "and just going up and up for more than 20 years out, where they were going to catch Chrysler. That really set me back."
His Toyota guides would not comment on that. "They didn't want to show that that was what they aspired to," Power says. "I don't think they had a plan on what models to build. The goal was to keep growing."
That year, when Toyota was charting those ambitious goals, its U.S. dealers were living off two vehicles. The Corona, introduced in 1965, almost single-handedly pushed sales volume from 6,404 in 1965 to 72,554 in 1968. The Land Cruiser, which had carried dealers for several years after Toyota had all but pulled out of the car market to review the landscape, was still a popular but small niche player.