GEORGETOWN, Ky. -- In order to translate Lexus principles, such as expert craftsmanship (or takumi), to its first U.S. factory, the Toyota luxury brand tapped deeply into its workers' feelings.
Pride in a job well done, yes. Satisfaction in bringing joy to customers, sure. But also the feelings that come from the thousands of nerve endings in every finger.
Those nerves, along with sight and sound, are tuned to discover the slightest anomaly in a vehicle as it moves down the factory line. Any imperfection must be fixed before the ES 350 sedan gets to wear the big "L" badge.
Whether a Lexus is made in Japan, at the RX plant in Canada or at the new $360 million ES factory line here, customers expect near perfection in appearance and quality, say executives. And the factory floor is where that has to happen.
You won't find Toyota executives apologizing for the Camrys streaming out of the other line in Georgetown. They are also fine cars, they say, but a Lexus needs some extra doting on before it gets to leave the factory gates.
And so the workers, most of whom migrated from the Toyota side of the factory, must pass Lexus 101 before they can help assemble one.
"Our team members' natural sense was that we can build a good car, and they do, they build a great car" in the Camry, said Wilbert James, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, during an April plant tour. "But Lexus is an exceptional car. And having the opportunity to understand the difference between great and exceptional, it's not something that you can just explain verbally. You have to show it."