The First Forklift Looks to the Future

Towmotor, the company that first invented the forklift is now making a major comeback in the market it once dominated after decades of languishing in the corporate wilderness. A major brand in the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s the company all but disappeared in the late 80s due to the effects of globalization, market downturns and labor challenges.

Today, Towmotor is back stronger than ever thanks to a revitalized capital infrastructure, new partners and a sales and marketing department that is supported by some of the best manufacturing facilities ever built to make forklift vehicles. Towmotor is bringing back its American heritage and values with its new line of basic and robust Towmotor® forklifts engineered and built for the dynamic Asia-Pacific market.

An American Original

American businessman Lester Sears founded Towmotor Corporation in Cleveland, Ohio in 1919. It was a time when most things relied on brute manpower, especially when it came to the loading and unloading of goods. Like its name suggests, a “Towmotor®” was a type of gasoline-powered industrial tractor that pulled and pushed carts in, out and around warehouses and factories, which greatly increased productivity.

An Industrial Revolution

After fourteen years of manufacturing small tractors, Towmotor decided to take a risk and introduce something never seen before—a machine that would change forever the materials handling industry. In 1933, Towmotor unveiled the world’s first forklift. Towmotor’s concept used front forks to lift and carry cargo while the back of the vehicle was counterbalanced to stabilize the load. The vehicle’s innovative design allowed one operator to easily unload, move and load over a ton of cargo—fast. What once took hours and thirty men to do, a Towmotor® forklift did with just one driver and in a fraction of the time. Towmotor's "One man gangs," as they were often called, were so popular that all forklifts at the time were generally referred to as "Towmotors." Towmotor Asia Pacific Managing Director, Hiroshi Sugawara says, “With the introduction or our new forklifts, we hoping to capitalize on the fact that we were the first forklift along with our solid reputation for building reliable, quality vehicles at an exceptional value.”