Toyota to Offer $170,000 Luxury Model to Select Few Outside Japan
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Toyota to Offer $170,000 Luxury Model to Select Few Outside Japan

Carmaker shows off new version of vehicle traditionally used by Japanese royals and CEOs

Thu, Sep 7, 2023 8:44amGrey Clock 3 min

TOKYO—Toyota thinks the world outside of Japan may finally be ready to embrace its six-figure superluxury flagship car.

Toyota’s Century—often described as the Rolls-Royce of Japanese cars—is a frequent choice of corporate chieftains and government leaders in Japan, including the emperor.

Since it made its debut in 1967, the Century has been sold almost exclusively in Japan and the model has changed little from its original boxy sedan shape and classic styling.

Toyota on Wednesday showed off a new, larger, plug-in hybrid version of the model that “from the start had its eye on the world,” Executive Vice President Hiroki Nakajima said, speaking at the unveiling event in Tokyo.

The new Century model will be introduced this year in Japan at a suggested retail price equivalent to around $170,000 and will be offered to customers in all regions of the world, Nakajima said. Toyota said select dealers in Japan would sell the model but didn’t describe sales procedures in other countries such as the U.S.

With its new Century, Toyota is targeting two segments—larger and luxury vehicles—that have continued to grow despite stagnation elsewhere in the car market. Until now, Toyota has primarily served the luxury market through its Lexus brand.

In 2022, global sport-utility vehicle sales grew 3% from the year earlier despite a slight decline in overall car shipments. That was due in part to strong demand for the vehicles in the U.S., India and Europe. Demand for luxury cars has also continued to rise through recent economic uncertainties.

One thing that won’t change is Toyota’s practice of having specially trained workers hand-make and customise the Century models in Japan. For now, Toyota said it wouldn’t produce more than 30 of the new Century models a month in addition to the existing sedan type it also continues to manufacture.

That means the new Century will likely have a bigger impact on Toyota’s brand image than its bottom line. Nakajima said the Century is a way to show off Toyota’s craftsmanship. He said details of overseas rollout plans would be determined based on initial reactions from customers.

Through the decades, Toyota’s Century has gained a following for being a decidedly Japanese take on a super luxury car. While little-known to most Toyota buyers in the U.S., it has attracted a following from some car enthusiasts such as comedian Jay Leno, who featured the model on a 2018 episode of his car-review series.

The vehicle’s grille features a badge inspired by the golden phoenix that adorns the Temple of the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto. The exit from the rear passenger cabin is lowered so that a person wearing a ceremonial kimono can easily get in and out.

It targets the Japanese upper crust who want to broadcast success, but not in a flashy way. The styling is boxy and understated, typically black with chrome accents.

When introducing the most recent iteration of the Century in 2018, Toyota said it had no plans to sell the vehicle outside of Japan because it didn’t think the car would appeal to foreigners.

The new models presented on stage Wednesday were a departure from the Century’s original styling—similar in shape to an SUV and showing a range of silver and gray shades.

Still, many of the Century’s interior features designed for chauffeured passengers remain. Those include rear seats that fully recline.

Chief Branding Officer Simon Humphries said the new Century was designed to maintain “the highest of Japanese sensibilities,” while also keeping in mind that customers are changing. The roomier new Century is designed for passengers who want to join online meetings from the back seat of their cars and drive without producing emissions, Toyota said.

“It’s a Century for the next century,” Humphries said.


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The personal wardrobe of the late fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, who is credited for introducing punk to fashion and further developing the style, is headed to auction in June.

Christie’s will hold the live sale in London on June 25, while some of the pieces will be available in an online auction from June 14-28, according to a news release from the auction house on Monday.

Andreas Kronthaler, Westwood’s husband and the creative director for her eponymous fashion company, selected the clothing, jewellery, and accessories for the sale, and the auction will benefit charitable organisations The Vivienne Foundation, Amnesty International, and Médecins Sans Frontières.

The more than 200 lots span four decades of Westwood’s fashion, dating to Autumn/Winter 1983-84, which was one of Westwood’s earliest collections. Titled “Witches,” the collection was inspired by witchcraft as well as Keith Haring’s “graphic code of magic symbols,” and the earliest piece being offered from it is a two-piece ensemble made of navy blue serge, according to the release.

“Vivienne Westwood’s sense of activism, art and style is embedded in each and every piece that she created,” said Adrian Hume-Sayer, the head of sale and director of Private & Iconic Collections at Christie’s.

A corset gown of taupe silk taffeta from “Dressed to Scale,” Autumn/Winter 1998-99, will also be included in the sale. The collection “referenced the fashions that were documented by the 18th century satirist James Gillray and were intended to attract as well as provoke thought and debate,” according to Christie’s.

Additionally, a dress with a blue and white striped blouse and a printed propaganda modesty panel and apron is a part of the wardrobe collection. The dress was a part of “Propaganda,” Autumn/Winter 2005-06, Westwood’s “most overtly political show” at the time. It referenced both her punk era and Aldous Huxley’s essay “Propaganda in a Democratic Society,” according to Christie’s.

The wardrobe collection will be publicly exhibited at Christie’s London from June 14-24.

“The pre-sale exhibition and auctions at Christie’s will celebrate her extraordinary vision with a selection of looks that mark significant moments not only in her career, but also in her personal life,” Hume-Sayer said. “This will be a unique opportunity for audiences to encounter both the public and the private world of the great Dame Vivienne Westwood and to raise funds for the causes in which she so ardently believed.”

Westwood died in December 2022 in London at the age of 81.

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