Production on the hydrogen-powered Toyota Mirai has begun, but some buyers may have to wait two years before receiving their orders.
Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corp., intentionally picked Feb. 24 as the day to begin production. It was on this day five years ago that the company went before a U.S. congressional panel to talk about the “unintended acceleration” recalls.
“For us, that date marks a new start,” said Toyoda. “This is not to reflect on the past, but rather to celebrate Toyota’s new start, where we take a fresh step towards the future.”
The production of the fuel cell Mirai is in the hands of 13 workers at the Motomachi Plant in Japan. Very little automation is found here, with the employees putting each car together by hand.
“These facilities are not so advanced. Rather, we rely on the work of our skilled employees,” Toyoda said. “This is similar to how things were when Toyota was just starting out.”
While Toyota prefers this hands-on approach to build the technologically-advanced Mirai, it will yield a very low production count. The plant is currently slated to finish only three cars per day, and is set to build only 700 Mirais this year.
“Compared with other plants, this has very low productivity,” said Mitsuyuki Suenaga, an assistant manager at the Motomachi workshop. “It is all manual.”
With these production estimates, Toyota will be struggling to meet its orders. One company executive told Automotive News that deliveries will be in “two years or something.”
To date, Toyota has received almost 2,000 orders from Japanese customers alone. Later this year, the Mirai will debut in the U.S. and Europe, adding to the backlog that already exists.
Toyoda issued an apology to customers for the “inconvenience” of waiting for the Mirai. Even so, the Japanese automaker is sure to turn off many consumers with a 2017 delivery date.
The Making of a Mirai
Toyota released a series of videos showing the fuel cell system assembly, trim installation and other segments of the Mirai production line:
Plant Interior and Parts Selection:
Chassis and Fuel Cell System Assembly:
Quality Control and Inspection: