Vehicles were originally sold under the name "Toyoda", 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" 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".