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

Take the 'Takumi' challenge

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

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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.

You can reach Mark Rechtin at mrechtin@crain.com. -- Follow Mark on Twitter

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