Secretive Lexus LFA workshop now makes Toyota Mirai fuel cell sedan
TOKYO -- Toyota Motor Corp. has struggled to fill the void at the secretive workshop in Japan where the Lexus LFA was assembled ever since the last $375,000 sports car rolled off a line in December 2012.
Now, it finally has landed a new product, one just as niche and high profile: Toyota”s new Mirai hydrogen fuel cell sedan.
The backlot LFA Works at Toyota”s Motomachi assembly plant in Toyota City has been tasked with hand building the limited-run car partly because of its craftsmanship and attention to detail.
And also because the Mirai, with its dedicated platform and hydrogen-powered drivetrain replete with mammoth fuel tanks, is better built by hand than in Toyota”s ultra-efficient factories.
In fact, production is so limited -- to just 700 vehicles in the first year -- that Toyota is already warning of delivery delays.
Toyota now has 200 orders for the car, and people ordering one today will have to wait until next summer to get theirs, said Masamoto Maekawa, executive vice president for domestic sales.
â€œEach unit is carefully built with utmost care. So therefore, the production volume might be limited,“ Maekawa said. â€œDuring the initial stages, delivery time might be delayed. The 200 orders are mostly from government and corporate fleets.“
Toyota is building each car to order, not en masse, partly because it wants to prudently match output to demand and not overproduce, said Yoshikazu Tanaka, chief engineer of the Mirai and former chief engineer for the Prius plug-in hybrid.
The Mirai”s drivetrain and other components are manufactured at Toyota”s Honsha plant in Toyota City, and the car is assembled at the nearby Motomachi plant, in the same workshop that made exactly just 500 Lexus LFA V10 sports cars from 2010 to 2012.
Since then, Toyota has toyed with different projects there.
The LFA Works is a jewel of Japanese artisanal production expertise, where master craftsmen ply their trade with pride. It took three weeks to complete one LFA in 2012.Photo credit: HANS GREIMEL
One idea was to manufacture carbon-fiber rooftops for a special performance version of the Toyota Mark X sedan. Toyota showed a concept of that car at the 2013 Tokyo Auto Salon, Japan”s version the Specialty Equipment Market Association tuner show.
After that, LFA Works branched into bicycles.
Those bicycles were $10,000 carbon-fiber units, dubbed Lexus F Sport Roadbikes, that were merchandised to rich Lexus owners.
Those 22-speed bikes had a limited run, too. Just 100 two-wheelers were built by hand from January to March of last year.
The LFA Works is a jewel of Japanese artisanal production expertise, where master craftsmen ply their trade with pride. The workshop is also loaded with extensive, and expensive, carbon-fiber spinning, molding and autoclaving equipment.
What to do with LFA Works post LFA has been a big question. But the Mirai will help keep its workers busy until volume outgrows its confines. And that may take awhile.
Even if production soars to 2,000 vehicles a year, Tanaka said, the workshop would still be churning out just 10 Mirais a day.
You can reach Hans Greimel at [email protected] -- Follow Hans on
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