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LFA factory at Motomachi / Toyota City tour report (sorry, no pics)

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Old 01-12-11, 08:42 PM   #1
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Default LFA factory at Motomachi / Toyota City tour report (sorry, no pics)

Greetings from Japan. Today I went on a tour of the LFA carbonfiber and assembly facilities near the Motomachi plant in Toyota City. I was told by Lexus USA only that I was going to be the first USA-based LFA buyer to take the tour, but it turns out I was actually the first non-internal LFA buyer in the world to visit the LFA production facilities (Javier Quiros visited sometime in December).

As mentioned in the thread title, photos were unfortunately not allowed so I have nothing to share in that regard. Hopefully my report can give some idea of what the tour was like.

The tour was led by LFA production manager Shigeru Yamanaka. Accompanying him was LFA chief engineer Haruhiko Tanahashi and a Toyota-supplied translator. Having the chief engineer as part of the experience was a great honor. Despite his numerous interviews in magazines like evo, the plastering of his quotes all over LFA marketing fluff like on the walls at Lexus Park Lane in London, and his recent nomination for Top Gear’s Man of the Year award, he seemed surprised that I was aware of who he was.

Tanahashi was very amusing on the tour – he fills the role of chief engineer and primary brain trust of the LFA quite well. He didn’t speak much English but would interrupt the tour from time to time to point out particularly interesting aspects of the production process or supply technical terms that were difficult to translate, and would also sometimes take over the tour to lead us himself, including on multiple occasions having us go right onto the assembly line next to LFA workers to examine certain aspects of the production process (this would cause the plant manager to run off in a hurry to grab us hard hats).

Before getting on to some of the details, the best aspect of the tour was that the production areas were incredibly intimate. As previously mentioned everything was up close and personal. Because most of the assembly is done by hand, there is very little machinery and therefore the facilities are very quiet. One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard from people who have done factory tours or delivery programs for their vehicles is that the experiences are far too commercialized and uninvolving, and the LFA tour certainly was a big contrast to that.

The first area on the tour was the carbonfiber production facility. This includes the massive carbonfiber weaving loom that we’ve seen videos of. There are actually three main types of CFRP used in the LFA (the construction of the A pillar differs significantly from, say, the CFRP used for the cabin floor) each with its own production method so we got a walkthrough of the production process of each type, and also witnessed workers molding certain parts of the CFRP into final form. Some of the parts are machine-molded in gigantic temperature and pressure-controlled units that look like an enormous hyperbaric chamber.

We got to examine some of the production samples and carbonfiber truly is amazing. The entire A pillar weighed only a few pounds – it was easy to pick up even with one arm. After the carbonfiber part of the chassis is put together, the aluminum subframes are then attached and the entire chassis goes through machine-based strength testing along with extensive examination by a team of engineers before it is sent to the assembly line.

After the structural portion of the chassis is completed and all necessary testing has been done, it still takes about 3 days for vehicle assembly to be completed. This is in stark contrast to other Toyota production facilities, where hundreds of cars per day roll off typical Toyota plants such as in the other facilities at Motomachi. The care that workers put into the LFA is obvious. Every LFA assembly line worker was specially selected and was trained for a full year prior to the commencement of LFA production. Nevertheless, the LFA assembly line is similar in concept to typical vehicle assembly.

After assembly completion, each LFA goes through road tests including a few loops around the tiny test “track” at Motomachi (really just a divided 2-lane road with two loops at the ends), although I was told the LFA does reach speeds in excess of 160mph during the short lap. We did see the track but unfortunately no testing was going on at the time.

The tour ended with a brief Q+A session with Tanahashi and several other Lexus engineers and managers. They also presented me with several gifts including an AutoArt LFA model (the old one, not the new one that hasn’t been officially released yet), which was a nice touch. Toyota was also happy to fulfill my request of a brief tour of one of the assembly lines at Motomachi where the Crown and Mark X among other models are produced.

LFA units 42-59 were in some form of production when I visited. This includes my unit which recently had its structural chassis completed (carbon monocoque and aluminum subframes only) and had just finished machine-based stress testing. Needless to say it was really special to see my LFA in that form, and I feel truly lucky to have visited during my LFA’s production. My LFA is scheduled to go to the assembly line next week and should leave for delivery before the end of the month. Unit 42, a gorgeous white LFA with all-black interior, was actually completed during my tour so I got to be among the first people to hear it fired up in complete form for the first time. After the road testing, a happy buyer should be getting it pretty soon (maybe in the US, since I recall it was LHD).

This of course means that 41 units are already out there. Even discounting those still in testing phase or in transit, I’m amazed we haven’t seen pictures or videos of the ones that have to have been delivered already.

The tour was definitely one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had. I am under the impression that only a handful of other LFA buyers have scheduled tours – I’m sure more will over time as their schedules permit or travel takes them to the region, but it’d be a shame if any LFA buyers don’t make it out to Toyota City. The tour alone is worth a trip to Japan.

Anyway, this post is already far too long. If anyone has any questions I’ll do my best to answer them.
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Old 01-12-11, 09:06 PM   #2
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Wow! Just wow! Speechless.

Thanks so much for taking the time out while being in Japan and sharing such special moments. Definitely, that sounds too exciting. It is the first time I am reading anything first hand from an owner and it only makes me want to listen more as you go through the experience of getting your LFA, breaking it in and putting it through its paces.

I cannot wait to hear more of your reviews about your ownership experience of the LFA.

Cheers!
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Old 01-12-11, 09:15 PM   #3
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Gengar, thanks for the tour exclusive.

Pretty amazing to hear about the production environment and that up to 40 people may have already received their LFA.
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Old 01-12-11, 09:23 PM   #4
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Thank you so much for sharing with us!!! I've read it 4 times now!

Click the image to open in full size.
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Old 01-12-11, 11:42 PM   #5
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Awesome!

Thank you very much for such a detailed report and write-up. Amazing that you met the chief engineer, *and* saw your LFA in the process of being built!
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Old 01-13-11, 12:04 AM   #6
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now this is a GREAT thread!!!!!!!!!! thank you so much genger

great info and details. although no pics, but this thread is awesome! so cool that you are one of the non-internal person to tour, and it seems to be very interesting!
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Old 01-13-11, 08:42 AM   #7
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Hi Gengar,

Thanks for sharing the experience.

I was in London last week and saw the Park Lane dealership you previous described. The place is an LFA shrine, missing onlu the car. Mostly hybrinds on the floor.

I am glad that you are taking full advantage of the experiences Lexus is making available to owners.

I have a few questions.

Have they shared the currently speculated details about the car like launch control with you?

Is the paint system used any different than for other Lexus vehicles?

Does the drive train get preassembled and lifted into the chassis?

Were any ring package cars bing built?

Were you the only guest or did you get to meet any other buyers?

Did you get to see a lot of the components invisible on a finished car like the window and wing motors and speakers.

What were inpections like, one person or more of a team thing?
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Old 01-13-11, 11:52 AM   #8
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Congrats Gengar..!!!

Your are a Very Lucky owner to get to see your future LFA as Art in Progress...

Thank You for sharing such a Great Experience..

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Old 01-13-11, 12:28 PM   #9
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wow, very cool and thanks for sharing the experience. Please do post picture once the car delivered.
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Old 01-14-11, 08:46 AM   #10
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Were you shown any aspects of the "Painting Process" ??

Would love to hear details about that...

Also, how good is your visual memory??
I am wondering if they ditched the key hole on the driver’s door skin ???

Reason I mention this, is from the video we saw a couple of weeks ago of an LFA being delivered to a Japan Dealership... I could not make out a key hole..
But the white plastic may have been making it difficult to see..

Also, based on the numbers you stated..
Looks like they are completing approx 2 LFA's a day on a M-F work schedule...


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Old 01-14-11, 02:10 PM   #11
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Watching your car being build is priceless...
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Old 01-17-11, 07:47 AM   #12
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Gengar PM sent. thanks
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Old 01-17-11, 12:12 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 05RollaXRS View Post
Thanks so much for taking the time out while being in Japan and sharing such special moments.
Well, I had some time to kill on my short flight from Nagoya back to Tokyo... when I wasn't falling in love with one of the Japan Airlines flight attendants, anyway.

Quote:
Originally Posted by S2000toIS350 View Post
Have they shared the currently speculated details about the car like launch control with you?
I didn't ask about this. I'll shoot off an e-mail to the translator and see if I can get an official response from Tanahashi or the other engineers.

Quote:
Originally Posted by S2000toIS350 View Post
Is the paint system used any different than for other Lexus vehicles?
The painting process is different partially because of the carbonfiber. Large surfaces (roof, hood, etc.) are still painted by machine, but many smaller surfaces and more difficult surfaces to paint are done by hand. For example, the inside of the rear intakes that feeds the rear radiators is painted by hand.

Quote:
Originally Posted by S2000toIS350 View Post
Does the drive train get preassembled and lifted into the chassis?
Yes - this is one of the aspects of LFA assembly that mirrors typical assembly. The engine/drivetrain/suspension part of the chassis is assembled and then wheeled under the lifted structural part of the chassis, where they are combined. It was pretty cool to see the engine up close (in this case it was the engine for unit 44).

Quote:
Originally Posted by S2000toIS350 View Post
Were any ring package cars bing built?
In the structural chassis form the regular version is probably indistinguishable from the Nürburgring edition. That said, none of the models with body panels were Nürburgring editions (of course, that's only models 42-44 while I was there). Weren't the Nürburgring edition cars supposed to be the last ones produced, anyway?

Quote:
Originally Posted by S2000toIS350 View Post
Were you the only guest or did you get to meet any other buyers?
I was the only guest.

Quote:
Originally Posted by S2000toIS350 View Post
Did you get to see a lot of the components invisible on a finished car like the window and wing motors and speakers.
I got to see most of the internal components more clearly, including the bare rear radiators and equipped fans, the battery, the main and reserve fuel reservoirs, and even the windshield cleaner fluid reservoir, which is mounted behind the cabin and low (just in front of the rear left wheel well) for weight distribution and low center of gravity.

Quote:
Originally Posted by S2000toIS350 View Post
What were inpections like, one person or more of a team thing?
All the inspections I saw were done by teams.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Z View Post
Were you shown any aspects of the "Painting Process" ??

Would love to hear details about that...
I did ask to see this but unfortunately there was nothing being painted at the time of my visit so there wasn't really any point in visiting the facility.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Z View Post
Also, how good is your visual memory??
I am wondering if they ditched the key hole on the driver’s door skin ???
Unfortunately I don't remember this. We'll have to wait to see pictures of the production models.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Z View Post
Also, based on the numbers you stated..
Looks like they are completing approx 2 LFA's a day on a M-F work schedule...
Just to note that an internal Lexus memo I got my hands on reported that the first production unit was completed on December 1st, so this contradicts the literature on the lexus-lfa.com site about production not even starting until December 15th. I'm more inclined to believe the internal memo, especially since Tanahashi told me that production has been at one unit per day. I think a possibility is that the production started on November 15th, but of course this is totally speculative.
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Old 01-17-11, 01:11 PM   #14
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Thanks Gengar

What a great set of experiences you are having.

Have you driven one yet? My sense is that hasn't worked out yet.

Regarding the ring cars, my recollection was also that they would be built at the end. On the other hand, Lexus has been great at meeting requests so I threw the question out to you.

Have a safe trip back!
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Old 01-17-11, 02:03 PM   #15
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I would like to know if they have plans to take the LFA racing. Not just at the Nurburgring, but maybe in FIA GT1 or ALMS or LeMans or some sort of GT racing, perhaps SuperGT, seeing as how they're going to combine with DTM in a couple years. It would get the LFA's face out there, brand recognition for Lexus.
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