Take the 'Takumi' challenge

Can you measure up to Lexus' standards, or will you fold?

Elite automakers pride themselves on the skill of their assembly line workers to create things few others can.

Lexus has taken that a step further for the people who hand-stitch the leather for the instrument panel on the redesigned 2013 ES 350 sedan.

Normally a task performed by robots, stitching the leather for the Lexus is handled by humans. But not just any seamstress can qualify.

Twelve "Takumi" experts do this job. To be certified, a worker must prove his manual dexterity by folding an origami-paper cat in less than 90 seconds with one hand. The nondominant hand, at that. It can take years to master this skill to a proper level of refinement.

To be certified to hand stitch the instrument panel leather on the new Lexus ES, a worker must prove his manual dexterity by folding an origami-paper cat in less than 90 seconds with one hand. Photo credit: MARK RECHTIN

At the ES 350 introduction, Lexus placed prefolded origami cats on the desks of attending journalists, as a measure of illustration.

How hard could it be? It's just six simple folds. I'm a fair guitar player, so that ability should translate into a certain digital dexterity.

Forget it.

I was able to perform the task with the prefolded paper, with time to spare, but that's like painting by numbers. When attempting the feat with an unfolded piece of paper, I was able to fold the cat one-handed, using the table for an assist, but the final result looked more like a crashed stealth fighter than a cat's face.

If I had applied for the stitching job, my prospects would have been all thumbs.

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