Toyota forklifts celebrate 50th anniversary in United States

The company's first forklift factory outside Japan started at 280,000 square feet, and has expanded 14 times to more than 1.3 million square feet.

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Toyota Material Handling U.S.A. (TMHU), commemorated the 50th anniversary of the first Toyota forklift sold in the U.S. with a special event for dealers, associates, dignitaries and media at its U.S. forklift headquarters in Columbus, Ind.

The company, which Modern has ranked the largest forklift seller in the world for 15 consecutive years, sold its first U.S. forklift to a grape farmer in Fresno, Calif., in 1967. Fifty years later, Toyota displayed that very forklift at its Columbus campus as a reminder to visitors of the brand’s longevity. To mark the golden anniversary, Toyota associates custom-designed, engineered and built a gold-painted forklift, which was unveiled at the milestone ceremony on August 30, 2017.

The Columbus plant was the company’s first forklift factory outside Japan, and started at 280,000 square feet. It has since expanded 14 times to more than 1.3 million square feet. It produces 67 base models at nearly 200 units each day and ships them to more than 20 countries.

TMHU’s parent company, Toyota Industries Corporation (TICO), reported net sales of $20 billion in 2016, of which 45% came from materials handling equipment—roughly the same as its automotive division. The company now holds 25% of the global forklift market share, and 35% in North America.

Cherry blossom trees are the national flower of Japan, home of TICO. To commemorate Toyota’s longstanding relationship with the city of Columbus, the company will plant 50 cherry blossom trees on its Columbus campus and donate 50 more cherry blossom trees to the city of Columbus. In addition to the trees, Toyota presented the Columbus Department of Parks and Recreation with 50 youth scholarships for those in need.

“Fifty years represents a golden achievement in the U.S. and today we honored the associates, the dealers, our suppliers and the community who supported TMHU’s journey to this major milestone,” said Brett Wood, president and CEO of Toyota Material Handling North America. “This ceremony underscored our legacy here in the U.S., but it was also designed to give a glimpse into the future of Toyota Forklifts’ ongoing leadership and growth in the rapidly changing material handling and logistics industry.”

Toyota Forklifts invited its 66 dealers representing more than 220 locations in the U.S. and Canada to join the festivities. Wood credited the vast network of professional dealers as a key ingredient in TMHU’s success. The dealers on hand at the event presented TMHU officials with a plaque of appreciation for the support and leadership provided to them over the previous five decades.

To mark the milestone, TICO executives presented TMHU with a ceramic roof tile sculpture. The ancient roof tiles, called Kawara, are from the Takahama region of Japan, and signify exceptional workmanship.

Indiana’s Secretary of Commerce, Jim Schellinger, addressed the crowd at the 50th anniversary ceremony and recognized TMHU for its sizable impact on Indiana’s economy. Columbus Mayor James Lienhoop also spoke and noted how Toyota Forklifts not only lifts the Columbus economy, but also lifts our country’s material handling industry. The event wrapped up with a keynote address from legendary Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight.

About the Author

Josh Bond, Senior Editor
Josh Bond is Senior Editor for Modern, and was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and associate editor. He has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce University.

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