The 'Era of the Family Car' started in 1966. It was in November of that year that the first Corolla — aimed at the Japanese general public — rolled onto the market to much fanfare. In the 40 years since, the Corolla has continued to evolve thanks to a philosophy of 'always staying ahead of the times.'
Today, wîth a total production of 30 million vehicles and sales in more than 140 countries and regions, the Toyota Corolla has earned its title as the 'Global Standard Vehicle of the 21st Century.'
The birth of a worldwide Corolla was made possible thanks to innovative thinking, technology and managerial decision-making that went on behind the scenes at Toyota Motor Corporation. All of these comprise the evolving elements of the 'Corolla DNA,' which has been passed down from generation to generation within the Toyota Motor Corporation.
Predicting the Motorization Boom
The first-generation 1100cc Corolla went on sale in November of 1966.
The total population had passed the 100 million mark, spending for television advertisements was overtaking spending for newspaper advertisements, the economy was picking up steam, and the term '3 C's' (air-Conditioners, Color televisions and Cars) was on everybody's lips.
'People are living in nuclear families out in the suburbs, which means they'll need family cars to get around. A motorization boom is coming to Japan.'
This was the future that Toyota foresaw coming in just a few years; and this was what prompted the building of a sprawling, 1 square kilometer plant in Takaoka (Toyota City in Aichi Prefecture) devoted exclusively to manufacturing the Corolla. When Toyota announced they planned on manufacturing 30,000 Corollas a month, the media at the time were utterly beside themselves wîth shock. (At the time, Toyota's annual production was approximately 50,000 vehicles.)
Achieving Superiority through the Adoption of New Technologies
The first-generation Corolla had a number of technologies, specifications, systems, etc. that were the first of their kind in Japan and for Toyota.
At the time, column shift transmissions were standard; however, Toyota recognized that floor-shift transmission was already common in Europe and would be required in the coming highway age. Thus the Corolla was equipped wîth a four-speed floor-shift transmission before other vehicles were. Also, after much research and testing, MacPherson strut suspension — which allows for a larger engine compartment and makes it possible to lighten the vehicle and reduce manufacturing costs — was adopted for the first time in domestic mass production.
A number of other innovative technologies, such as for improving the comfort of seats, increasing rear seat space, raising the height of the roof and adopting the long floor shift lever, gave the Corolla a competitive edge.
Exceeding 80 Points Thinking
Customers won't accept anything inferior about the vehicle they drive; it has to be better in some way than other available vehicles, and it has to give them a sense of satisfaction and pride — or else they won't buy it.
'Shooting for a score of 80 for a vehicle means having no failing marks, but we can't accept a score of just 80 for each part; some parts have to get above 90.' That was the thinking of Hasegawa, Chief Engineer for the Corolla at the time. This meant the Corolla could not merely have an average total score of 80 points. It had to be much better.
Continuous Introduction of New Technologies and Specifications
Continually improving a product's technological capabilities and overall quality will allow it to stay ahead of the times and the needs of customers and society.
For the Corolla, this has meant offering an array of variations (from coupes to wagons to hatchbacks and more), as well as utilizing the philosophy of 'the right vehicle for the right place.' By making vehicles using processes that are rooted in each locale, the Corolla has achieved recognition as a global vehicle.
Toyota has continued to pursue new technologies and specifications, develop greater engine performance and driving safety, make vehicles more environmentally considerate and achieve greater comfort.
Putting Ourselves in the Customers' Shoes
'The only way to meet the needs of the customer is by putting yourself in his or her shoes and asking yourself what they need, what would make them happy.'
Úsing this mindset, Toyota convinced itself to improve standard features without focusing on cost and also to use the 'reverse thinking' that profits come from sales expansion. This thinking helped the Toyota Corolla evolve over time to become the vehicle that meets its customers' needs.
One specific example of an improvement resulting from this thinking is back-up lights added to the rear of the Corolla, which helped ensure that drivers could see at night when backing up. While this is the sort of feature every family car needs, at that time, even mid-size vehicles were lacking them. In contrast, back-up lights were a standard feature on every single Corolla produced.
Corolla's strategy of latching on to and then incorporating customer needs permeated the entire passenger vehicle market.
The 1.3 million people attending the new vehicle-release exhibition for the Corolla symbolized the fact that it had accurately captured the needs of customers at the time.
Actively Exporting to Overseas Countries
'Right from the development phase, we thought of the Corolla as a vehicle made to drive down the center lane of the German Autobahn,' says Hasegawa, Chief Engineer for the first-generation Corolla.
In other words, the first-generation Corolla was conceived as a rival for compact vehicles on the European market even in the design phase and as a high compact vehicle that also would be accepted overseas. The Corolla featured a strong, compact engine wîth a five-bearing crankshaft, which was cutting edge at the time, even amongst compact vehicles on the European market; and the engine was modified to 1100cc to accommodate export to the Únited States. These and other features show how, from the very beginning, Toyota continually had a view towards active global development.
As soon as the Corolla went on sale in Japan, it also was exported to Australia; and in the years since, the number of Corolla vehicles exported has continued to rise.
Furthermore, thanks to Toyota's 'right vehicle for the right place' concept, the Corolla has achieved high ratings in the overseas market, evidenced by a cumulative production of 30 million vehicles worldwide in 2005. Over the years, the Corolla has come to be recognized as both a global and local best in the more than 140 countries in which it is sold.