Toyota to Offer $170,000 Luxury Model to Select Few Outside Japan | Kanebridge News
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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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At the World Plogging Championship, contestants have lugged in tires, TVs and at least one Neapolitan coffee maker

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GENOA, Italy—Renato Zanelli crossed the finish line with a rusty iron hanging from his neck while pulling 140 pounds of trash on an improvised sled fashioned from a slab of plastic waste.

Zanelli, a retired IT specialist, flashed a tired smile, but he suspected his garbage haul wouldn’t be enough to defend his title as world champion of plogging—a sport that combines running with trash collecting.

A rival had just finished the race with a chair around his neck and dragging three tires, a television and four sacks of trash. Another crossed the line with muscles bulging, towing a large refrigerator. But the strongest challenger was Manuel Jesus Ortega Garcia, a Spanish plumber who arrived at the finish pulling a fridge, a dishwasher, a propane gas tank, a fire extinguisher and a host of other odds and ends.

“The competition is intense this year,” said Zanelli. Now 71, he used his fitness and knack for finding trash to compete against athletes half his age. “I’m here to help the environment, but I also want to win.”

Italy, a land of beauty, is also a land of uncollected trash. The country struggles with chronic littering, inefficient garbage collection in many cities, and illegal dumping in the countryside of everything from washing machines to construction waste. Rome has become an emblem of Italy’s inability to fix its trash problem.

So it was fitting that at the recent World Plogging Championship more than 70 athletes from 16 countries tested their talents in this northern Italian city. During the six hours of the race, contestants collect points by racking up miles and vertical distance, and by carrying as much trash across the finish line as they can. Trash gets scored based on its weight and environmental impact. Batteries and electronic equipment earn the most points.

A mobile app ensures runners stay within the race’s permitted area, approximately 12 square miles. Athletes have to pass through checkpoints in the rugged, hilly park. They are issued gloves and four plastic bags to fill with garbage, and are also allowed to carry up to three bulky finds, such as tires or TVs.

Genoa, a gritty industrial port city in the country’s mountainous northwest, has a trash problem that gets worse the further one gets away from its relatively clean historic core. The park that hosted the plogging championship has long been plagued by garbage big and small.

“It’s ironic to have the World Plogging Championship in a country that’s not always as clean as it could be. But maybe it will help bring awareness and things will improve,” said Francesco Carcioffo, chief executive of Acea Pinerolese Industriale, an energy and recycling company that’s been involved in sponsoring and organizing the race since its first edition in 2021. All three world championships so far have been held in Italy.

Events that combine running and trash-collecting go back to at least 2010. The sport gained traction about seven years ago when a Swede, Erik Ahlström, coined the name plogging, a mashup of plocka upp, Swedish for “pick up,” and jogging.

“If you don’t have a catchy name you might as well not exist,” said Roberto Cavallo, an Italian environmental consultant and longtime plogger, who is on the world championship organizing committee together with Ahlström.

Saturday’s event brought together a mix of wiry trail runners and environmental activists, some of whom looked less like elite athletes.

“We like plogging because it makes us feel a little less guilty about the way things are going with the environment,” said Elena Canuto, 29, as she warmed up before the start. She came in first in the women’s ranking two years ago. “This year I’m taking it a bit easier because I’m three months pregnant.”

Around two-thirds of the contestants were Italians. The rest came from other European countries, as well as Japan, Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico, Algeria, Ghana and Senegal.

“I hope to win so people in Senegal get enthusiastic about plogging,” said Issa Ba, a 30-year-old Senegalese-born factory worker who has lived in Italy for eight years.

“Three, two, one, go,” Cavallo shouted over a loudspeaker, and the athletes sprinted off in different directions. Some stopped 20 yards from the starting line to collect their first trash. Others took off to be the first to exploit richer pickings on wooded hilltops, where batteries and home appliances lay waiting.

As the hours went by, the athletes crisscrossed trails and roads, their bags became heavier. They tagged their bulky items and left them at roadsides for later collection. Contestants gathered at refreshment points, discussing what they had found as they fueled up on cookies and juice. Some contestants had brought their own reusable cups.

With 30 minutes left in the race, athletes were gathering so much trash that the organisers decided to tweak the rules: in addition to their four plastic bags, contestants could carry six bulky objects over the finish line rather than three.

“I know it’s like changing the rules halfway through a game of Monopoly, but I know I can rely on your comprehension,” Cavallo announced over the PA as the athletes braced for their final push to the finish line.

The rule change meant some contestants could almost double the weight of their trash, but others smelled a rat.

“That’s fantastic that people found so much stuff, but it’s not really fair to change the rules at the last minute,” said Paul Waye, a Dutch plogging evangelist who had passed up on some bulky trash because of the three-item rule.

Senegal will have to wait at least a year to have a plogging champion. Two hours after the end of Saturday’s race, Ba still hadn’t arrived at the finish line.

“My phone ran out of battery and I got lost,” Ba said later at the awards ceremony. “I’ll be back next year, but with a better phone.”

The race went better for Canuto. She used an abandoned shopping cart to wheel in her loot. It included a baby stroller, which the mother-to-be took as a good omen. Her total haul weighed a relatively modest 100 pounds, but was heavy on electronic equipment, which was enough for her to score her second triumph.

“I don’t know if I’ll be back next year to defend my title. The baby will be six or seven months old,” she said.

In the men’s ranking, Ortega, the Spanish plumber, brought in 310 pounds of waste, racked up more than 16 miles and climbed 7,300 feet to run away with the title.

Zanelli, the defending champion, didn’t make it onto the podium. He said he would take solace from the nearly new Neapolitan coffee maker he found during the first championship two years ago. “I’ll always have my victory and the coffee maker, which I polished and now display in my home,” he said.

Contestants collected more than 6,600 pounds of trash. The haul included fridges, bikes, dozens of tires, baby seats, mattresses, lead pipes, stoves, chairs, TVs, 1980s-era boomboxes with cassettes still inside, motorcycle helmets, electric fans, traffic cones, air rifles, a toilet and a soccer goal.

“This park hasn’t been this clean since the 15 century,” said Genoa’s ambassador for sport, Roberto Giordano.


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