From 1967 up until earlier this year, we've associated "Century" only with Toyota's most luxurious saloon ever. Going forward, the prestigious name will also be used for an SUV, albeit the Japanese automaker refuses to use this term. It's officially described as a "new concept for chauffeur-driven mobility" that costs the equivalent of £135,000 in Japan. That's roughly five times more than a base JDM-spec Land Cruiser.
In an article published by the company-backed Toyota Times magazine, we learn more about how the not-an-SUV Century comes to life on the assembly line. Built at the Tahara Plant in Japan, the luxobarge doesn't go through the usual inspection process. Instead, a master inspector is assigned and must perform final checks on the whole vehicle. For a regular model, multiple inspectors oversee different parts of the car. There are just two master inspectors qualified for the job, but initially, there weren't any.
Toyota Century SUV inspection
Both had to undergo a rigorous training programme to earn the necessary certification. Since the Century SUV is not a series production model, Toyota has the luxury of taking its time with each car it makes. A master inspector goes through a laborious process that consists of 17 steps. The paint job must be perfect, and the engine bay must be immaculate.
In addition, a master inspector must make sure there aren't any panel gaps and unevenness at body panel joints. Pictured here is Moriaki Higa, one of the two master inspectors who had been involved in inspecting Lexus cars. He says the standards for the Century SUV are stricter than those for a Lexus. He explains that paint inspection is usually done on a sampling of cars but for the Century SUV, each and every vehicle is thoroughly analysed. There's a so-called "coating clinic" where the models with problems are sent to fix paint defects observed during the inspection process.
If everything is in order with the paint and the body, the Century then autonomously goes to a different inspection station to have its mechanical bits checked out. It drives itself in purely electric mode by taking advantage of its PHEV setup. City driving conditions are simulated, and Toyota makes any necessary final adjustments to the wheels and headlights. After that, the posh SUV once again drives itself, this time to a dedicated test course where it's driven at higher speeds to detect any weird noises. A new test was created to analyse how the vehicle behaves when it's in pure electric mode.
All told, it takes three and a half hours from start to finish. Toyota projects it'll sell 30 units each month.