Toyota’s New ‘Century’ Brand to Be More Luxurious Than Lexus, Compete With Rolls Royce and Bentley
It seems that a Toyota executive slipped up and revealed the automaker’s plan to transition into a family of brands. Since 1989, Toyota has sold luxury vehicles in the U.S. under the Lexus brand. The next step will be to establish an ultra-luxury brand called “Century.” I expect we’ll also see a “Gazoo” off-shoot for sports cars.
First, a bit of Toyota history. Kiichoro Toyoda founded the Toyota Motor Corporation to build the 1937 Model AA. But even then, the automaker was one of several companies owned by his family. His grandson is Akio Toyoda, retired Toyota executive and auto racing enthusiast. Akio joined the family business in 1984 and has worked at many levels of the compay.
Toyota spun off a Lexus brand, especially for the North American market, in 1989. But in Japan, there’s so much pride in the Toyota nameplate that even the wealthiest preferred top-trim Toyotas such as the “Crown” and “Century” luxury cars. In 2005, Toyota did begin to offer Lexus-branded vehicles in Japan.
Things got a little muddy a few times over the years. For example, the Toyota Land Cruiser morphed into a luxury SUV and reached near-Lexus prices before Toyota decided to cut it in North America to reduce inter-brand competition. When Akio Toyoda lobbied for a front-engine, RWD sports car to replace the Supra, the company badged it as the Lexus LFA. Once Akio became the President, he folded his personal “Gazoo Racing” project into the company and badged the LFA’s spiritual successors as the Supra and 86.
Rumor has it that Toyota did some navel-gazing during COVID-related factory shutdowns. It was then that it cut its 800 engine offerings down to less tahn 20 and decided to move every vehicle to one of several shared chassis. I suspected Akio and company also charted a course to a family of brands, consistent worldwide.
Toyota seems to have begun to migrate to a family of brands by adding Gazoo Racing (GR) badges to all of its top-trim sports cars. This lineup has become a sort of parallel to the TRD Off Road badges across Toyota’s top-trim 4WDs.
Toyota also brought its Toyota Crown luxury sedan to the U.S. market. Then it launched a “new” Century in Japan. This is an SUV built on the same platform as the Highlander, but at a price point and build quality to rival Rolls Royce or Bentley. Toyota chose not to include “SUV” in the vehicle’s name. But the upcoming Century Sedan will reportedly be called exactly that.
Toyota brought a special edition Century SUV to the Tokyo Auto Salon. The performance-oriented GRMN (Gazoo Racing Meister of Nürburgring) concept was custom built for Akio Toyoda. One journalist asked why the SUV wasn’t badged as the “Lexus Century” and a Toyota Executive let an intriguing piece of information slip:
“Ah no, the Century will actually be positioned above the Lexus brand as an extra luxurious brand.”
So there you have it: the automaker’s family of brands will go Century, Lexus, and Toyota. And perhaps there will someday be a separate Gazoo brand for sports cars and even a TRD brand for the most capable off-roaders.
Next, find out how Akio Toyoda raced the 24-hours of Nürburing incognito to found Gazoo Racing, or watch the reveal of the new Toyota Century in the video below: