NEW YORK – Toyota has just introduced a new Century. This is a big deal. The Toyota Century is the most exclusive car in Japan. Introduced in 1967 and named for the 100th birthday of company founder Sakichi Toyoda, the Century defines top-tier Japanese luxury, the kind reserved for heads of state, chief executive officers — and yakuza bosses. It is so iconic as a status symbol that it is exempt from stringent national restrictions on vehicle and engine size. It cannot even be purchased in a typical dealership, but only at specialized stores, and only by invitation. The Emperor is chauffeured around in a modified Century.
Stately, formal, and very conservative, the model has gone through only two generations in the 50 years since its inception. This is an eon in the automotive world, where a standard car generally lasts just six or seven years. Even the Rolls-Royce Phantom, which evolves at a glacial pace, recently saw generational change after a dozen model years.