WardsAuto spoke with Susan Elkington, president of the Toyota manufacturing facility in Georgetown, Kentucky, on the challenges of building the new Lexus ES:
[2019 ES] Job One is set for late summer, and it will take about eight weeks for production to reach full capacity, she says. TMMK will produce most of the V-6 models for the U.S. market. Kyushu will supply some V-6 cars and ES hybrids.
With the shift to TNGA, more than 2,000 ES parts are all-new or modified. Georgetown added aluminum-hood production for the new Camry, and that operation will be expanded to hoods and fenders for the ʼ19 ES. The new Lexus also gets a revised wishbone suspension in the rear. Laser-screw welding processes are new to the body shop, increasing torsional rigidity of the new ES.
A new color – a striking Sonic Blue – also adds complexity to the ES operation, because it requires multiple coats and two trips through the paint line.
Workers on the ES assembly line will require a collective 150,000 hours of training for the new model, and expectations are high:
“It’s more than just being able to install the parts in the right sequence,” she says. “We spend a lot of time on sensory training.”
Workers must be able to identify the right bolt by touch or learn to grab the right quantity of clips in the first try. Quality inspectors need to be able to spot fits outside the tight tolerance of 0.01 ins. (0.3 mm) by running gloved hands along gaps in the sheet metal and ensure by feel that stitching throughout the interior is at the perfect pitch and depth.