Precious Cargo: Sending LFA on its Way

May 22, 2012
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LFA Lair – Two Lexus LFAs crouch side by side in a California warehouse before completing their journey from Japan to their new owners in the United States. Photos by Ryan Bacsafra
Joseph Tilo pulls on white cotton gloves and drapes a white flannel cloth over the edge of the car. Then, with the precision of a surgeon, he hooks up the battery and slides behind the wheel. The engine growls to life with a glorious, guttural roar.
 
“That’s such a muscle sound,” Tilo says. “That’s every man’s dream, being in a car like this.”
 
Tilo helps make that dream come true for new owners of the Lexus LFA. He’s part of a painstaking delivery process developed by Toyota Logistics Services (TLS) for a car with an MSRP of $375,000.
 
To safeguard the supercar, each LFA arrives at the port of Long Beach in an individual 20-foot shipping container with pristine white walls and a wooden floor. However, the car itself is not wrapped in a protective cover.
 
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Providing a Lift – Forklift operator Orlando Salazar gently pulls the LFA pallet from its container.
“The constant rubbing of any material can mar the paint and create swirls,” says Terrell Singletary, TLS highway transportation logistics administrator. “The container rides in the belly of the ship to keep it away from any saltwater overspray.”
 
Because TLS Long Beach isn’t equipped to offload containers, they’re trucked to a Carson warehouse operated by Fujitrans, a Toyota partner. That’s where Fujitrans supervisor Tilo preps the cars.
 
Like others who help deliver the LFA, Tilo completed specialized driver training. After all, Singletary notes, “There’s a three-step process just to start the vehicle.”
 
Despite his training, Tilo remembers sweating out the ceremonial arrival of the first LFA in January 2011, which was witnessed by about 75 Toyota and Lexus guests.
 
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Surgical Precision – Fujitrans supervisor Joseph Tilo hooks up the battery in the LFA.
“You could have filled a five-gallon bucket with our sweat,” he says. “Just the thought of handling a car of that price…”
 
But he and co-worker Orlando Salazar are now comfortable, though extremely careful, handling the cars that arrive most Mondays. Inside each container, an LFA crouches on a pink pallet. Salazar uses a crowbar to pry off the wooden blocks nailed to the floor of the container to keep the pallet from shifting during its voyage from Japan.
 
Then he fires up an orange Toyota forklift and slides the forks under the pallet. He slowly backs up, gently pulling the pallet from the container. As the car emerges, Tilo peers intently at the paint, searching for blemishes.
 
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Ramping Down – Joseph Tilo backs the LFA down the ramp onto the floor of the warehouse.
The men then remove the blue straps attaching the wheels to the pallet. They hook two pink ramps onto the pallet, covering the bolts with more white cloths. As Tilo slowly backs the car down the ramps, Salazar crouches behind him, waving him back until the low-slung vehicle grips the floor.
 
The LFA is now ready to be driven into an enclosed Toyota Transport truck for the short journey back to TLS Long Beach for processing and a Monroney label. Then it’s on to a dealership, where each LFA is met by a Lexus area representative. One car may ride alone on a short trip, while two or three cars share a truck for a long haul (the primary markets are California, Florida and the Northeast).
 
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Truck Stop – The LFA enters a truck for a trip to TLS Long Beach for processing before heading to a Lexus dealership.
“It can be very demanding,” Singletary says. “Customers are paying a lot of money for this car, and they want it as soon as possible. To meet certain delivery dates, we’ve used a team of drivers so the truck doesn’t have to stop.”
 
So far, TLS has delivered 115 of the 173 LFAs allocated to the United States. “There has been no transportation damage,” he says.
 
Sixteen months after the first delivery, Singletary still feels a sense of pride when he gazes at an LFA. “Every time I see one, it’s still ‘Wow!’” he says.
 
And yes, he feels a bit of affection for the LFAs he helps send on their way. “There’s another one,” he says, “getting ready to go out into the world.”
 
By the Numbers
  • 500 LFA supercars are being hand-assembled by skilled technicians at the Motomachi Plant in Toyota City at a rate of no more than 20 per month.
  • The 4.8-liter V-10 engine generates 552 horsepower and 354 lb.-ft. torque.
  • The car accelerates from 0 to 60 in 3.6 seconds and achieves a maximum speed of 202 mph.
  • Customers can pick from 30 exterior colors, six brake caliper colors and 12 interior colors.
  • The base MSRP is $375,000 (not including delivery, processing and handling fees).
  • A Nürburgring Package, which is limited to 50 LFAs, is available for an MSRP of $70,000 (not including delivery, processing and handling fees).
 
Want to see an LFA delivery in action? Watch a Lexus video entitled, “A Superior Journey – Transporting the LFA to the U.S.”

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