The mention of Toyota and “luxury,” Lexus will probably come to mind. However, that wasn’t the case in Japan prior to 2005. Previously, Lexus was an overseas-only marque while back in its home country, Century was the go-to automobile if one wanted a chauffeur-driven car. The history of Toyota Century dates back as far back as 1967 when the first model came into existence as the sedan of choice for businessmen looking for a chauffeur-driven car.
It was the de facto symbol of power and wealth. It was a car that have graced many Japanese movies where it was often seen as the chauffeured car of the rich and powerful. Since its birth, it has seen three generations with the third generation Century, which was a full model change, introduced in June 2018. So, yes. It is still being made and sold in Japan.
What sets Century apart from its cohorts – if there are even any – is, it is entirely handcrafted. Higashi-Fuji Plant of Toyota Motor East Japan, Inc. (formerly, Kanto Auto Works, Ltd) where the Century is produced is vastly different from a standard Toyota factory. It has no assembly line, no row of cars lining up, no sound of electronics or machinery. Instead, it has a handful of very skilled craftsmen putting together each car with their skilled hands.
Century is the epitome of Japanese’s craftsmanship that sometimes involving evolved traditional crafting like this:
“One of the focal points of the exterior design of the new Century model is the character line that runs down both flanks. This is formed using a traditional chamfering method known in Japanese as ‘kichomen’. This term originally referred to the elaborate way the posts of kicho, Heian period (794-1185) room partitions used by nobles to provide private areas for themselves, were chamfered to avoid leaving a simple angle. The finely-detailed, intricate workmanship on these partitions has led to the adjective ‘kichomen’ coming to mean ‘to carry out work accurately and carefully.’”
Up till today, it remains as Japan’s only chauffeur-driven car. The latest iteration boasts an impressive 13.6 km/L consumption – thanks in part to its hybrid system that combines the raw power of 5L V8 2UR-FSE motor with 375 HP and 510 Nm of torque on the tap and a 165 kW (221 HP) rear-mounted electric motor to arrive to a total output of 425 HP. Beyond that, Toyota Century has all the luxury imaginable befitting its luxury status.
The third-generation Toyota Century is currently selling in Japan, fully customizable, for around 19.6 million Yen, which works out to be around $180,000.
All images courtesy of Toyota.