Toyota vs. Toyoda

As the recall controversy surrounding Toyota president Akio Toyoda pushes him further into the spotlight, his name has drawn at least a small part of the glare: Why, many ask, does Toyoda's family name (Toyoda is the grandson of company founder Kiichiro Toyoda) differ from that of the automaker itself?

One theory to which many subscribe has to do with luck: The company, which held a logo contest in 1936 that coincided with the name change, may have chosen the alternate spelling because Toyota is written with eight brush strokes in Japanese, while Toyoda takes 10 strokes.

That makes a difference, said Emily Parker, a senior fellow at the New York-based Asia Society, because eight is considered an auspicious number in Japan.

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"Eight represents luck and prosperity," she said.

Toyota's Web site mentions the "luck and prosperity" motivation behind the name change, but also adds that the Toyota name in Japanese lettering is "more streamlined" than Toyoda and that the "sound of the word 'Toyota' was also deemed more appealing."