Seventy-four years ago Kiichiro Toyoda, then the head of Japan's Tokyo Toyoda Motor Sales, changed the name of his new automobile firm to Toyota, believing the new name would bring good luck to the fledgling carmaker.
The reason for the change: Writing "Toyoda" in Japanese requires 10 brush strokes, whereas writing "Toyota" requires eight strokes. While "8" is considered a lucky number in Japan because it forms the shape of a mountain, a symbol of strength, the number "10" is not so fortunate - in Chinese characters it forms the shape of a crossroads, suggesting an uncertain path.
Seven decades later, in 2010, Toyota is facing a moment of great uncertainty. A massive worldwide safety recall over acceleration and brake problems involving more than eight million vehicles, including the cutting-edge Prius sedan, has severely tarnished the carmaker's carefully crafted reputation, built over 70 years of hard work and a relentless pursuit of manufacturing excellence.
Read the ArticleRoland Jones Knight-Bagehot Fellow 2009-2010