• Oct 29, 2009


If you read our First Drive of the Lexus LFA, you might recall an interesting little factoid we threw in to illustrate the OCD-level of detail Toyota used to produce its first ever supercar.

With over 150 years of looming experience, ToMoCo owns a rotary weaver -- one of two in existence -- which it repurposed to create the carbon fiber A-pillars on the LFA. The process is mindbogglingly awe-inspiring and we were finally able to snag video of the device in action. Make the jump to check it out and get a better idea of why the LFA carries its steep $375,000 price tag.

UPDATE: Toyota asked us to take down the video. Something about proprietary technology. Lame.



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  • 102 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      Very cool, I would be more impressed if I could see the end result in detail. Video is just too short.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Would be interesting to know how the cost of this trickery and how much of it factors into the car's price. Toyoda made a good call on limiting production of this car. Methinks they could even afford to make less.

      Curiously this car reminds me of the late Supra, big, heavy and ugly mother lol
      They should at least get rid of the refrigerator white color and throw some metallic hues around, matte black will do though.

        • 5 Years Ago
        My guess is Toyota is taking a BIG loss no matter how many they sell or how they price it. The development for a car like this must be in the hundreds of millions of dollars (10 years!!!), regardless of how they do the accounting (chalking some of it up to their race programs, etc.), not to mention all the equipment setup and what not just to manufacture it.

        So, at the end of the day, it's an effort that makes absolutely no financial sense (why else would they have rumored to kill it?), and just proves a point (let's be honest...in the last two decades only two Japanese cars--the NSX and the GTR--have competed in the major leagues with the most storied supercar brands) more than anything if you look at this by itself. However, I think the real long-term strategic goal is that some of this development will trickle into other Toyota road cars (carbon ceramic brake rotors, dry-sump 9500rpm V10, new construction techniques, etc.) so hopefully us car guys would benefit instead of getting endless supplies of lighter-weight Corollas and Siennas or something.

        BTW I'm sensing a pattern of Japanese supercars here...NSX, GTR, LFA. Hmm, unwritten rule #1 of a Japanese super car must be that it be named in cryptic acronyms... ;)
      • 5 Years Ago
      Making extensive use of carbon fiber in low cost automobiles will become profitable only if the process of fabricating and manipulating carbon fiber can achieve economies of scale. (Also, carbon fiber, as it exists today, will never be as versatile as metal or plastics).
      You can see clearly from the loom above and from those shown in links which other commenters have posted that the process is inherently slow and not very scalable.

      I think that Toyota is using the "trickle-down" potential of this car to justify its existence and the enormous amount of time, effort and capital that went into its development. The jury is still out as to whether any of this technology is applicable to mass-produced automobiles. I think this loom (and the fact that it is principally the same as pre-existing looms and that these looms have yet to see usage beyond very low volume production) weakens their claim that the technology used in the development of the LFA has a lot of trickle-down potential. It certainly doesn't look like that's the case, at least in its current form. Why don't they just say "We felt we needed a halo car to rally the troops around, rekindle some bygone energy that may have once been associated with the brand, and, in doing so, change our image in the eyes of consumers and the automotive press"? Few have bought on to their claims of the LFA's superiority among supercars (and just slightly more have even accepted classifying it as such). I think the economic argument for the car's existence is more solid, but until I see any of this technology* actually make its way into mainstream, mass-produced Toyotas, I'm not buying it.

      * I actually think the tech behind the LFA's badass TFT instrument panel could easily "trickle-down" and achieve economies of scale. Still, that tech is hardly revolutionary and Toyota certainly didn't need any hundred million dollar program to develop it.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The CF loom has the potential to bring down costs of CF for mass production. While the cost of the CF itself is relatively expensive, the loom cuts down on waste and labour. It also brings a factor under control, consistency. CF is used in sheets and cut and molded into shape by hand, that's labour intensive. The handcrafting means that it's prohibitively expensive to create the same piece many many times consistently to meet specs.
      • 5 Years Ago
      What an incredibly high-quality process shown on a horrible quality video.
      • 5 Years Ago
      That was really cool to watch- no doubt that is fantastic engineering on the manufacturing side.

      In practice, the LFA isn't a lightweight vehicle though. So, it seems as if the engineering budget was spent on R&D for manufacturing rather than R&D on the practical applications of it. A Corvette Z06 weighs 85lbs less without much carbon fiber at all, nevermind what some of the hypercars in the LFA's price range weigh.

      So while cool, it seems needlessly complex when going to 18" wheels would have likely shed more weight while lowering the price. But I guess cars like this aren't meant to make sense, are they?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Well it's not super light but they also wanted it to be ultra-rigid and just feel fantastic to drive. So while they used very light materials they probably used quite a bit to give it all the crazy engineering they wanted in the structure of the car.
        Plus, since it's a Lexus I can only assume that it's also filled with about 500 pounds worth of airbags and sound deafening.
        I think they focused on making it simultaneously a supercar with 550+ HP while maintaining a certain Lexus-like level of ease of control and poise, so the weight probably piled up. If you can really custom order these in a racer trim I suspect it'd be a LOT lighter.
      • 5 Years Ago
      McLaren can produce a carbon fiber 'tub' at a much lower cost. The fact that a company chose to produce a similar product at a higher cost does not justify its higher price.

      Anyway ToMoCo does not need to justify the $375000 price tag. All they need is to convince 500 people to pay.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Mirko

        Borg Warner have no patent on dual clutch gear boxes used by Audi /VW..that is a silly internet miss information... Borg Warner supplyes only a very small part for the VW Audi 6speed wet DSG tranny and Borg Warner builds the vew parts on exact order from VW Audi...all patents for the 6speed wet VW/Audi DSG are owned by VW Audi...
        Other example for the 7 speed dry clutch DSG Borg Warner delivers nothing... not a single screw. The dry clutch discs for the 7speed DSG comes from LUK.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The Bugatti gearbox is made by Ricardo. Audi/VW's DSG/S-Tronic is just theirlicensed version of the Borg-Warner DualTronic. The unit in the Nissan GT-R is also based on a Borg-Warner design. Porsche's PDK is made by ZF Friedrichshafen. BMW's dual clutch transmissions, as well as Chrysler's, Ferrari's, Ford's and Volvo's are made by Getrag.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Of course they can produce the tub for less money. They aren't weaving individual strands together to form a circular or oddly shaped part. Anyone with the materials and a bit of know how can lay sheets of carbon and resin. It would take far more skill, time (and thus money) to do what this machine is doing by hand or to build another machine from scratch to replicate it.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I remember that K2 skis used a similar technology in their triaxial series, although they were fiberglass, not carbon fiber. It's not an unusual method to deal with complex fiber-based parts and it's been around for a while. Certainly an A-pillar is quite a novel use of it...
        • 5 Years Ago
        They won't have trouble finding them
        • 5 Years Ago
        I'm more impressed by Lotus' use of extruded aluminum:
        http://www.autoblog.com/2009/10/28/lotus-shopping-evora-chassis-to-other-automakers/

        While Toyota is off in a dreamland of infinite money, Lotus found a practical and economically viable solution to rapid chassis development and low production runs.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Josh - The car's a boat load of meh to me, but that video and technique are amazing. very cool.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @ Coco , "LFA represents pinnacle of Japanese automotive engineering as this video indicates, and produced completely in-house"
        the LF-A engine was co-developed by Toyota with Yamaha, at least the other brands you mentioned make their own engines.

        Porsche, Lambo and Bugatti make their own gearboxes too.Lambo uses their own E-Gear gearboxes, Audi was the first car manufacturer to use DSG on production cars, Porsche makes their own manuals and PDK means Porsche Doppelkuplung, their own gearbox . Bugatti Veyron has the first 7 speed dual clutch gearbox specially designed by VW for the car, they employed a guy who created F1 gearboxes to be the chief engineer for the project.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Why do smart comments get thumbs down on autoblog? this place must be full of retards....

        I absolutely agree with you.
        • 5 Years Ago
        foxthewhite -- "Anyway ToMoCo does not need to justify the $375000 price tag. All they need is to convince 500 people to pay."

        Lexus' demographic has the highest income levels among all luxury brands, they'll sell everyone of them. LFA represents pinnacle of Japanese automotive engineering as this video indicates, and produced completely in-house with custom parts and components, even Bugatti, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche and others all contract out things like gearboxes and the design and construction of carbon fiber components.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Coco
        "produced completely in-house"

        You mean the Yamaha engine?
        • 5 Years Ago
        What you fail to understand is that of all the Auto blogs today this one has the most comments. An extremely complex and expensive machine design to accomplish an incredibly complex task with precision. Just enjoy it as many others have, even if you can't afford the product it produces.
        • 5 Years Ago
        McLaren doesn't weave their own carbon, looking at that loom you understand why. Toyota built that just for the LF-A at this point, and its probably as complex, or more complex, then the LF-A itself.

        Automakers like Mclaren merely buy pre-weaved sheets wholesale, they come in different patterns and types; 1k,1.5k,3k,6k,12k .24K,48K, etc. The main CF manufactures are companies like Toray, Mitsubishi-Rayon, SGL, Hexcel, etc.

        What Toyota is doing is unprecedented in that this machines not only does custom weaves, it weaves around a sub-frame, and they've created a massively complicated equipment to do that.
      • 5 Years Ago
      So do you have any info to back up the "one of only two in the world" line?

      I know of at least one other one that weaves stainless steel wire for use in industrial corrugated hose. (Place I used to consult for, IT work.) They have several weavers and one very large rotary one.

      I doubt that this company + Lexus are the only ones in the world. :P
      • 5 Years Ago
      Wasn't Toyota a textile company before it made cars?
      • 5 Years Ago
      So the LFA is $375k so they can recoup money spent on this weaving machine?
      matthew
      • 5 Years Ago
      It's so funny to see people say that this car has a $100,000 premium over Ferrari's that are "the same". No Ferrari uses this level of technology or engineering. Not even the 599XX is this high tech. This car's level of technology is on par with the Veyron. It's not as fast as the Veyron(which is an amazing engineering marvel) but the LFA is supposed to be about driving dynamics taken to a totally new level. $375,000 is way too CHEAP for what this car is and you can be sure that Toyota will be losing tons of money for each one sold. I would love to see this car priced "fairly" even if that meant it was 2 million dollars. INFORMED people would still buy them.
      • 5 Years Ago
      for my money i rather have a gtr and 180 grand in my hand and service wise the gtr is cheaper then a zr1 vet and audi r8 u have to remember that tires and wheels and brakes are in the rquation for service price and replacing tires on the gtr is a grip it all relavent if u buy a gtr u not taking it to jiffy lube for the 19.99 oil change.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Best. Sewing machine. Ever.
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