Part 04

CARPHOTO-1611

Performance is the ultimate test of your Lexus and Hideya Segawa has the final say. He knows every part by heart and will quickly track a squeak, smell or vibration to its problematic source.

He expects the same of his battalion of inspectors. They put every Lexus coming off the production line through a series of tests on simulators and machines. Segawa trains these people to ask the best questions: May be the steering true? Are the headlights angled correctly? Does the automobile turn, accelerate and brake as it’s supposed to? Is definitely the impact prevention technology effective? Are there any fluid leaks? Will the seals on the doors last a lifetime?

Gadgetry helps. A hypersensitive microphone placed inside the car while it’s accelerating and braking in a chamber might pick-up a noise that shouldn’t be there. Another contraption spins the wheels on the surface that simulates a bumpy ride. But Segawa teaches inspectors to rely on their own finely tuned senses, not gadgetry, when trying to pinpoint glitches. “”The most important thing for an inspector is kansei,”” says Segawa. “”Irrespective of how many machines you use for testing, humans are better at finding something that isn’t right.

That’s why Segawa puts every trainee through hours of listening drills on a computer. The gear shift, the axle, in the end they can identify every sound in the car – the propeller. Of course, the right spot to catch problems is from the driver’s seat. No Lexus leaves without a few laps on the 4km test track. Drivers take the cars over concrete, cobblestones and ropes to check suspension, noise and handling. Finally, inspectors scan every surface, every boot, bonnet and door to ensure it’s flawless.

One key lesson from the Segawa textbook: Be a good listener.We ask ourselves, ‘What does the car seem like as it slices through air? ‘” he says. “Needless to say, a Lexus is designed to stay quiet. When you’re inside, you won’t hear much.


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