Toyota is headquartered in Toyota City and Nagoya (both in Aichi), and in Tokyo. In addition to manufacturing automobiles, Toyota provides financial services through its division Toyota Financial Services and also creates robots. Toyota Industries and Finance divisions form the bulk of the Toyota Group, one of the largest conglomerates in the world.
In January 2009 it announced the closure of all of its Japanese plants for 11 days to reduce output and stocks of unsold vehicles.
Early in 2009, although company spokespersons declined confirmation, media sources reported that Akio Toyoda, grandson of the founder, will be promoted in June from vice-president to the position of President, replacing Katsuaki Watanabe.
Vehicles were originally sold under the name "Toyoda" (トヨダ), from the family name of the company's founder, Kiichiro Toyoda. In September 1936, the company ran a public competition to design a new logo. Out of 27,000 entries the winning entry was the three Japanese katakana letters for "Toyoda" in a circle. But Risaburo Toyoda, who had married into the family and was not born with that name, preferred "Toyota" (トヨタ) because it took eight brush strokes (a fortuitous number) to write in Japanese, was visually simpler (leaving off two ticks at the end) and with a voiceless consonant instead of a voiced one (voiced consonant is considered "murky" or "muddy" sound compared to the voiceless consonant, which is "clear"). Since "Toyoda" literally means "fertile rice paddies", changing the name also helped to distance the company from associations with old fashioned farming. The newly formed word was trademarked and the company was registered in August 1937 as the "Toyota Motor Company".
In predominantly Chinese speaking countries, Toyota is known as "豊田". These are the same characters as the founding family's name "Toyoda" in Japanese, which translate to "fertile rice paddies" in the Chinese language as well.
From September 1947, Toyota's small-sized vehicles were sold under the name "Toyopet" (トヨペット). The first vehicle sold under this name was the Toyopet SA but it also included vehicles such as the Toyopet SB light truck, Toyopet Stout light truck, Toyopet Crown and the Toyopet Corona. However, when Toyota eventually entered the American market in 1957 with the Crown, the name was not well received due to connotations of Toys and pets. The name was soon dropped for the American market but continued in other markets until the mid 1960's.