A Dedicated Plant: The Dream Takes Shape

An NS-X running on the Nurburgring course in West Germany. The next-generation sportscar was a product of extreme testing on this course.

<< 1. Let’s Build a Sportscar!
<< 2. A Sportscar in the Image of Honda
<< 3. Designing an All-Aluminum, Monocoque Body
<< 4. Subjecting to Severe Tests at Nurburgring
<< 5. The Next-Generation Sportscar
<< 6. A Dedicated Plant: The Dream Takes Shape
<< 7. NSX: A Constant Evolution

The construction of Honda’s Saitama Factory’s Tochigi Plant (currently the Tochigi Factory’s Takanezawa Plant) was completed in May 1990 as a facility dedicated to the production of the new, aluminum-bodied sportscar.

All the facilities and equipment employed by the factory were specifically designed for the NS-X, and among them the aluminum spot-welding machine was particularly noteworthy. Aluminum is a highly conductive, heat-sensitive material, and in sheet form it is thicker than steel. For these reasons a greater amount of current is needed for welding. Therefore, a conventional machine wouldn’t be sufficient for that operation. Since no company at the time manufactured a spot-welding machine that could accommodate an aluminum component the size of a car body, a separate project was run at Honda Engineering to develop an original machine, and this was perfected along with the body’s development.

Honda even took a new approach to the assignment of personnel to the plant. It advertised available positions throughout the company, including every departments of each branch and factory, in order to find expert engineers who wished to take part in building the NS-X. Since the production volume was low—just 25 units a day—the operators would need to direct their skills toward “handcrafted” levels of detail. As opposed to mass-production systems where properly calibrated machinery churn out several lots of products in short order, on the NS-X line the operators would make full use of their own senses as a means of calibration. Moreover, the aluminum materials would require manual finishing throughout, meaning that all production personnel would need skills that were proportionate with the added responsibilities.

The new plant was actually designed to yield maximum results from the available human resources. Accordingly, the personnel would have priority over their machines, not vice versa. There was, for example, not a single conveyor belt in evidence. However, a 360-degree rotary welding table was provided in order that the operator could work comfortably without having to crawl beneath the vehicle under construction. Various other systems adopted at the facility were all unique. The plant, in fact, remains a world apart from that of the conventional, mass-production facility.

Tochigi Plant held its open-house ceremony in August 1990. Speaking to an audience assembled there, new Honda Motor President Nobuhiko Kawamoto said, “The NS-X is a next generation car incorporating many unique, proprietary technologies. Therefore, it represents the attainment of another dream for the Honda organization. And Tochigi Plant is where we will further that dream.”

A Japanese press conference regarding the new sportscar was held in September 1990, one day before the start of sales at Verno dealerships throughout the country. The code name NS-X, already well-known due to the successful promotion of the prototype vehicle, had been adopted as the official model designation, NSX. But orders had already been pouring in prior to the launch, and the car was soon such a hit that buyers would have to wait as long as three years to get their very own dream machines.
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