Club Lexus Tours Lexus’ Tahara Plant
We go behind the scenes to see the Japan plant where Lexus SUVs are built.
What makes Lexus reliability ratings so high? We take an exclusive tour of the remote Tahara, Japan plant to learn why and learn a few unique details along the way.
The Tahara, Aichi, Japan plant resides on a long peninsula along the southern coast of Japan. It is an ideal location with easy access to the Pacific Ocean and was built with easy shipping in mind.
Before it opened in 1979, Toyota had to not only build the plant, they literally had to build the land. Bringing in load after load of dirt, they “reclaimed” the land as our tour guide told us. Reclaiming literally meant they took the land back from the ocean.
The man-made site was built in such a way to jut out in straight lines into the sea. This allows them to bring in 50,000 ton ocean-going cargo ships to load directly from the factory.
Lexus builds several vehicles at the Tahara plant like the Lexus LS, GS, IS, IS F, GX and LX models. We toured the assembly plant 1 to see the GX and LX SUVs get built.
The plant is renowned as being the most computerized and robotized plants in the world. It is more than just a plant, it is a production area consisting of 15 buildings, four test tracks and an on-site rest and recreation area (complete with a heated pool) for its approximate 8,000 employees. Each year, it produces more than 300k units while total engine production is around 300k units.
Touring the assembly plant, each station is built to ease the physical demands on the workers. Robots are used throughout the process and are extremely helpful installing heavy and sometimes awkward items like doors and seats. It runs two shifts a day and produces around a thousand vehicles each day including Toyota 4Runner, Land Cruiser and Land Cruiser Prado in addition to the GX and LX SUVs.
The Lexus GX and LX begin life at a stamping plant, then move to a welding building. Once the body is assembled, it is sent to paint and then to the assembly plant. As it moves on the assembly plant, the frame is joined to the body and an on-site built engine is installed along with interior items like the dash and seats.
Further down the line, a myriad of other pieces are added until the final large assembly item, the doors, are added again with the help of robots.
Once fully assembled, the SUVs roll into the final inspection line. This is one of the two major assembly plant reasons why Lexus quality is pretty high.
First, the inspectors are certified by the Japanese Government’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MLIT) office. They are specifically trained to not just look over the vehicle for road worthiness (lights, braking, tires), but also build quality items like paint, door gaps and more. It is rigorous and tedious inspection process which ends with each vehicle being started up and driven off the line.
The second reason for Lexus quality is each vehicle is then driven around a test track to make sure everything works as it should. Once inspectors are satisfied, they are driven to a loading parking lot area.
Finally, a team of drivers loads the vehicles into the 55,000 ton ship. The ship holds 5,000 cars and it takes two days of loading, working 8-hour shifts, to fill it up.
Once the ship is full, it sets sail. Our tour guide told us, it takes a week to get to California and four weeks to get to Florida. These cars are unloaded at these locations and either put on trains or loaded onto car carrying semis to reach Lexus dealers.