Quality Over Quantity: The Making of the 2017 Acura NSX

MARYSVILLE, Ohio – “This is a very big day in our history,” said Tom Shoupe, Executive Vice President and COO of Honda of America Manufacturing.  

Those are the first words spoken to the inaugural group of automotive journalists ever to step foot in Acura's Performance Manufacturing Center (PMC), solely dedicated to the all-new 2017 Acura NSX. A 184,000-square-foot masterpiece located in Marysville, Ohio designed to mimic the craftsmanship and beauty of the long-awaited hybrid supercar. It cost Acura USD$70 million to build the PMC, and it shows through an open environment without lines or walls and as clean as Howie Mandel's spotless estate. 

The Acura NSX is a marvel of a supercar, and you can easily tell how proud all 100 of the all-white uniformed workers in the PMC are from the smiles and passion written all over their faces. They take this job seriously and understand how important this car is to get more people excited about the Acura brand. 

The NSX is all about quality, technology and attention to detail catered towards low-volume production. The weekly plan is simple: slowly build 8-10 units per day for a 4-day/10-hour work week. 

“At the PMC, we wanted to achieve a new definition of the word 'craftsmanship' with no additional adjustments necessary,” said Clement D'Souza, Acura NSX Engineering Large Project Leader. “This facility is a perfect blend of man and machine.”  

That synergy of man and machine was seamless at each and every station visited along the PMC tour. We started out by witnessing the 360-degree, rotisserie-style robotic welding of the space frame. The machine can turn the entire body of the frame for the robotic weld arms to receive the most optimal access. This was followed by some robotic hemming of lightweight metallic materials. In both cases, the workers set the frames in the appropriate position to allow the machine to distribute the necessary heat and performance precision. 

Afterwards, it was off to a glass-enclosed paint room that delivers 11 coats of primer and paint. A little excessive it may appear, but that's what makes it world-class, and only the best would seem to suffice for the NSX. 

Throughout the painting process, the body frame is tilted to remove all air pockets. The first applied coating chemically bonds to the aluminum, which is paramount for the chemical element to not produce any sludge. A few stages down, the frame eventually uses an eco-friendly paint inside and out, gets rinsed by recycled water and is sent to a top-load oven set at 340 degrees for 50 minutes. 

In total, it takes two days to complete the painting of the NSX, so there are plenty of other paint stages. We went through a few of them that includes applying a clear coat, using an electrostatic spray and the painting of 27 different parts at the same time before the car gets fully assembled. It's a complicated process, but one that demonstrates the care and specificity that goes into each supercar.

I've spoken more about man and machine, but it's in the assembly of the NSX where man takes over after a thorough 28-piece data and welding accuracy inspection from the Coordinate Measuring Machine. Afterwards, every bolt used on the NSX is hand started and tightened precisely by a wireless torque wrench that's both interactive and accurate within five per cent of each bolt screwed in. This precision is something not seen at high-volume factories, but one that is essential at the PMC. 

All in all, this visit to Acura's PMC was mind blowing and one of the most clean and organized facilities I've ever stepped into. It's led by an all-star veteran team of passionate skilled workers where quality is at the heart of everything. Clearly, I didn't go through the NSX's entire assembly process, it wouldn't be riveting copy, but I wanted to highlight the stations that were the most intriguing. 

Acura is using technology to not only validate the accuracy of each action, but they're getting it right the first time by being proactive in quality by avoiding post-weld machinery. As long as the 2017 NSX drives as well as it's put together (14 hours of work per car), I'm perfectly happy with this slow and steady approach. And this checks and balances approach was probably the reason why we've been waiting so long for the NSX in the first place. 

The 2017 Acura NSX will begin serial production in late April with customer deliveries to immediately follow.

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