Toyota ends 51 years of Mark II, Mark X production

On December 23, Toyota held a farewell ceremony for the beloved Mark II and Mark X sedan. The final example, a white Mark X 250G, rolled off the line at Toyota’s second-oldest plant, the Motomachi factory in Aichi Prefecture, as workers waved goodbye. The car was immediately driven to a small sendoff where it was parked beside a first-generation Corona Mark II, the car that started it all.

The Mark II began life as an offshoot of the Corona line, with a stretched nose and bigger engine options. It allowed Toyota to offer near-Crown luxury in a middle-class sedan, and became so popular that it spawned its own chassis code and nameplate.

Actually, it spawned three nameplates in Japan and another abroad. There was the bread and butter Mark II, the sportier Chaser, and the more formal and conservative Cresta. If you bought one in the US, it was called the Cressida. It became the definitive middle-class sedan and rival Nissan attempted to go head-to-head with the Skyline, Laurel, and Cefiro, but Toyota had them beat.

At its peak, just before the bubble burst, Toyota was selling an astounding 20,000-plus units per month. At this time there were 20 Mark II variations for the Japanese market and 28 variations for overseas, a mix of body styles, engines, and transmissions. Toyota had never before offered such a large number of models simultaneously in large-scale mass production.

In 1990, the X70 generation proved so hot that it even out-sold the Corolla and reached number one in Japanese sales charts. According to a company spokesman, Toyota sold 6,518,000 Mark II (across all nameplates) and 363,500 Mark X in all, for a grand total of 6,881,500.

One factory couldn’t keep up with the demand. The Motomachi factory built about half the production run, 3,495,000 units (the rest were split between Kanto Auto Works, Higashi-Fuji, and Kyushu Miyata). On the day the final Mark X was built, Toyota held a small send-off attended by about 200 employees. However, in a rare move, Toyota opened the ceremony to non-employees. In addition to the first and final generations, 1979, 1984, and 1988 Mark IIs were on display to welcome the guests.

Plant manager Hiroyoshi Ninoyu, who joined the company in the mid-1980s, has devoted 35 years of his life to the Mark II. He addressed the attendees in Japanese. “When I joined Toyota I was training at a Corolla dealership and everyone around me was telling me to buy an AE86. I put that aside and on a sunny day I bought a fifth-generation [X70] Mark II. It had a huge presence for me and it was love at first sight. I think the styling is beautiful even now.”

Ninoyu described that at peak popularity, because Motomachi was the primary factory for the model, production went into overtime on a daily basis. He trained many line workers, watched them grow over the years, and believes everyone at Motomachi is really proud to have built the Mark II and Mark X.

Sadly, due to the popularity of vans and SUVs, sales in recent years have been a pale shadow of their former glory. In 2017, Toyota sold just 8,460 Mark X models, and 2018 was even more dismal at just 4,108.

Ninoyu confirmed the situation. “We couldn’t beat the wave of one-boxes and SUVs, but we found that there were still many enthusiasts who wanted a manual transmission, rear-wheel-drive car.” This was a reference to Gazoo Racing’s limited-production GRMN models, of which 100 were built in 2015 and 350 in 2019.

“Both sold out immediately, so I thought, ‘There’s no car that was so beloved,’ Ninoyu continued. “I’m really proud, and really happy to be able to send off the final car with you today. I’ve been supporting the Mark X and three Mark II brothers for a long time. I’d like to thank all those who have done so as well.”

It was a solemn goodbye, but Ninoyu ended on a hopeful note when asked about the future of the Motomachi factory. “Our plant has the advantage of being able to build electrified vehicles… I hope to see a car loved by all make a comeback, and will wait for the day whe we can make, for example, the ‘Mark E’!”

At the exit, attendees were gifted a pastry decorated with the words, “Thank you Mark X!” The Motomachi plant continues to build Crowns, Lexuses, and the Mirai hydrogen fuel cell car. After 51 years and 11 generations, the Mark II and Mark X story has come to a close.

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