Category: Behind The Scenes

By on May 26, 2015

Jeep Cherokee

“Extras with cars! This way!”

A 20-something assistant to someone else’s assistant guides us to where the next shoot will take place.

“You! You! And You! We need you for wardrobe!”

Me? This can’t be good.

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By on December 16, 2014
Teslas in a row Courtesy ibtimes.com

Tesla’s first fleet deal? Around 100 Model S’s were sold to a Las Vegas startup taxi service.

The auto journo world is in a tizzy because electric automaker Tesla refuses to post its car sales numbers on a monthly basis and the numbers they do divulge are suspicious as they are without detail and they vary widely from actual registration numbers. Our friends at Jalopnik ranted about it last week, calling on Tesla to start reporting sales consistently. They based their story on a report by Seeking Alpha that deduced that Tesla may have as many as 12,000 unsold Model S’s, based on registration figures and the automaker’s quarterly financial reports.

We say congratulations, Elon Musk, you truly are the head of an American car company now, as reporting bogus sales numbers to the press is a normal part of an automaker’s modus operandi.  Read More >

By on October 29, 2014

2006 R500 Courtesy cimg.carsforsale.com

I felt like a spy within my own company. It was a hot summer day in 2003 and I was at the DaimlerChrysler proving grounds in Laredo, Texas to attend a focus group on the upcoming 2006 Mercedes-Benz R-Class minivan/crossover/sport touring wagon. My dozen or so fellow attendees were all wealthy owners of high-end Mercedes-Benz cars. I was here because the Mercedes-Benz USA focus group invite filter did not recognize my net worth nor the fact that I worked for Mercedes-Benz Financial Services. And I was not about to tell anyone that…

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By on May 15, 2013

IMG_5034

 

This being Q&A Wednesday, I promised to answer  TTAC commenter 28-cars-later’s question in feature-length. He said: “Bertel, how do you get such access to Ghosn… is Nissan just *this* friendly to the press?” Let me explain to you how it works.
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By on February 23, 2013

The story about fake taxi parts did not surprise me at all. “Police busts fake parts scam” is a fixed part of the standard repertoire of the auto industry theater troupe. That play is longer running than Les Miserables, it definitely made more money than the Phantom of the Opera. The play is a clever sham to separate you from your money, and I helped write the script.

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By on February 16, 2013

After Toyota ended production of the Lexus LFA and closed a chapter of supercar history, National Geographic aired its documentary as part of its Megafactories series. “Up until now, no television cameras have ever been allowed inside this top secret facility,” says the film. The words were carefully chosen. You, the TTAC readers, had been there long before the film went on air.

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By on February 10, 2013

 

At TTAC, we showed you the secrets of how to make a supercar. But what about the real top secrets of a car company, like its earnings? This is insider information, trading on which could make you rich, or poor. It also can land you in jail for a long time. TTAC takes you to the inside of how a car company prepares for an earnings press conference.

Dan Sloan is tired. The head of Nissan’s Global Media Center in Yokohama got up at 6am this morning after days of not much sleep. Today is the day when Nissan’s third quarter earnings are to be announced to the press, and the world at large. It will be a long day of preparations for the big announcement in the late afternoon, and TTAC will be the fly on the wall. Or, as Sloan predicted, the fly in the ointment.

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By on January 16, 2013

Investigative reporter

We have a new car show season. With it come new car releases, and with them comes a contagion that is as tiring and headache-inducing as a Cobo Hall flu on top of an after party hangover. The disease goes by the name of embargo, and it comes with  the embargo breach as a secondary infection.

In case you have studied Pol.Sci. instead of HTML, you might be thinking that we are talking about real embargoes, such as those of Iran or Cuba. We don’t. In our biz, an embargo is when an OEM sends a blog a picture or a story, and then asks not to “print” it until later. If you think that the outcome is both predictable and inevitable, then you are absolutely correct. We could put the matter right to sleep without wasting (ha!) precious HTML column inches, would the new car season not also be marked by an excited chattering, twittering, OMG+1000ering over busted embargoes in what goes as the automotive media these days.

So let’s do what we rarely do, let’s talk about embargoes.

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By on July 13, 2012

I’m looking at you …

Obsessions are a menace. The daughter of a friend had a shower obsession. “I have an obsessive compulsive disorder,” she would readily admit, only to continue: “I’ll be right back, I need to take a shower.” Such a pretty girl. And she always smelled so good.

A prime obsession of the auto blogosphere are the sales of the Lexus LFA. Is it sold out? Is it not?

(To avoid killing you with the suspense: It is. Has been since April 2010 when Lexus had its 500 orders long before production started in December of that year. Not interesting? I don’t blame you. Stop reading. There is plenty of other content.) Read More >

By on July 13, 2012

On the LFA’s in-house test track. Each car gets tested for some 50 miles

In this week-long report, we followed the Lexus LFA from raw fiber to bodypaint, and assembly. In this final chapter, we take it on the test track in Motomachi. 

Each and every LFA that rolls off the line is checked like no other car. 7,000 items of the LFA, all previously checked, counter-signed, eternalized in evidence sheets, are checked again. Each check again is eternalized in evidence sheets. When I said it takes 8 days to make an LFA, I lied. It takes 8 days to make one, and then it takes a full additional week to check it. Read More >

By on July 12, 2012

In the preceding chapters, we followed the Lexus LFA from raw fiber to body, paint, and assembly. Today, the LFA gets its engine. Tomorrow, we’ll test it, and then, we’ll say good-bye to the LFA Workshop in Motomachi. 

On its slow road to completion, the LFA travels down a main line, where it is met by components that come from smaller sidelines. One such subassembly is the LFA’s V10 engine. Covered by a thick sheet of plastic, it comes from Yamaha where it was built and assembled. The engine was a balancing act, in more ways than one. Read More >

By on July 11, 2012

 

LFA carbon fiber body

After a general introduction in the first chapter, the last chapter of this inside report showed us  how the body-in-white of the LFA is hand-made layer by layer, and that it is actually a body-in-black. When finished, the body goes on a transfer cart and travels one third of a mile to the second stage of the LFA production, painting and final assembly. We take a bus. Read More >

By on July 10, 2012

One of two circular looms on the planet. 12 layers of seamless carbon fiber are woven into what will be part T3-3RH, part A-pillar, part roof support

Yesterday, we heard how the LFA really was born (in a bar, where many good ideas are born and pitched,) and why it is made from carbon fiber. Now, we are in front of the cleanroom, and while our little group is suiting up, let’s use the time for a quick course on CFRP. 

The basic principle of Carbon Fiber Reinforced Polymer, CFRP for short, is not new. It dates farther back than metal. CFRP is a composite, made from two completely different materials that are joined together to give a much stronger material. Straw and clay was such an early composite. Concrete is a more recent one. In the case of CFRP, carbon fibers are combined with epoxy, the polymer. Sometimes, the material is also called “carbon fiber reinforced plastic,” but the end product is far removed from what usually comes to mind when we think of plastic. Read More >

By on July 9, 2012

The autoclave. A giant pressure cooker that limits the Lexus LFA production to one per day

Behind a nondescript garage door in the Motomachi plant in Toyota City is LFA Kobo, the LFA Works. Here, 170 men and women chase the holy grail of car making. Their mission: How to make a car super fast, super light, super safe, and affordable. They have mastered the first three. On the affordable they are still working. The holy grail is being chased in a supercar, the $375,000 Lexus LFA. Read More >

By on July 8, 2012

One of two circular looms on the planet. 12 layers of seamless carbon fiber are woven into what will be part T3-3RH, part A-pillar, part roof support

This 5 chapter series gives you unprecedented access to the LFA Works in Motomachi. Here, 500 LFA supercars are being handmade by 170 people, and you can watch how they do it.

The baking happens in the autoclave next door. Picture it as a garage-sized pressure cooker. Pieces in the autoclave are covered with foil, then vacuum is applied that presses the layered piece into its mold. Two bars of pressure is applied to the autoclave, and at a constant temperature of 150 C, the parts are cooked to perfection.””

Chapter One: From A Bar To Bar None. How the LFA was born, and why it is made from carbon fiber.

The strongest parts of the LFA are made in a clean room. Our hair is covered. We wear long white coveralls. Booties go over our shoes. Someone vacuums me from top to bottom.””

Chapter Two: In The Clean Room. Where the LFA is made from the strongest and most expensive type of carbon fiber available.

Building the body of one LFA takes four days, we race through it in three hours. On the fourth day, there is what is called a body-in-white in the car making industry. Except that in the case of the LFA, it is a body-in-black. In a shiny, glossy black that we usually associate with carbon fiber.””

Chapter Three: Call Me Names. How the LFA really received its name.

Some likened the sound to “the roar of an angel”, some to “an F1-inspired tune.” Lesser poets could compare it to the sound of a circular saw.””

Chapter Four Balance Of Power. We watch the V10 engine go into the LFA.

What will happen to the LFA Works at the end of the year? Will Tanahashi, now 59, simply go into retirement? Will the 170 associates who make the LFA go back to making Crowns, Corollas and Camrys?
Tanahashi collects his thoughts, then says:””

Chapter Five: Exam Week. We examine Chief Engineer Tanahashi about how the LFA influences future cars, and what will come after the LFA.

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