Toyota looking for other ways to use carbon-fiber plant in Japan

Article by Anita Panait, on January 8, 2013

Toyota Motor Corp. is now looking for ways to repurpose a plant where it developed and hand-assembled the money-losing Lexus LFA sports car. Toyota opened the costly and very sophisticated carbon-fiber plant inside its Motomachi complex in October 2010, to produce superstrong yet lightweight carbon-fiber auto parts for the Lexus LFA.

Around 65 percent of the LFA's body, by weight, is carbon fiber. Toyota never expected the LFA to make a profit for Toyota, since it was envisaged as a halo car to demonstrate that Lexus engineering could compete in the rarified supercars league. Halfway through, the LFA’s development chief engineer Haruhiko Tanahashi dropped plans for an aluminum body.

He instead decided to give the LFA a carbon-fiber body, which ultimately sky-rocketed the sports car’s cost base. A Toyota official said that at one time, there were informal talks about another project after the current LFA project finishes. He, however, remarked that the current business environment is too poor, perhaps referring to the strong Japanese yen that saps profit of import-oriented companies in Japan.

The last Lexus LFA came out of the plant on Dec. 14, 2012, and Toyota may now have to employ its carbon-fiber expertise to develop and produce a new product, together with the $375,000 sports car. The plant is now considered as near-idle. For now, LFA fans may stop dreaming about a new derivate of the Lexus vehicle.

Topics: toyota, japan

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