Toyota has officially ended more than half a century of manufacturing vehicles in Australia at a ceremony today in the factory in Altona, on the outskirts of Melbourne. Although the factory began operations in 1995, Toyota vehicle production in Australia began in 1963. In fact, Australia was the first country outside Japan to produce Toyota cars, starting with the second generation of the Corona which was called the Tiara in Australia.
Australia played a prominent role in the emergence of Toyota as a global force. In the 1960s, Australia was the company’s largest export market with prominent models including Land Cruiser. In late 1966, Australia was the first destination of Corolla exports from Japan, just one month after the car’s launch. Just two years after that, Australia became the first country outside Japan to build Corolla.
Of the 3.45 million Toyota vehicles built in Australia between 1963 and 2017, the largest number was of the Camry (2,168,104 units). This was partly because the XV10 generation (1992) was designated Toyota’s second World Car after the Corolla and the Altona factory was selected as one of the global production hubs for the model. That generation of the Camry, which was the first to be introduced in Malaysia, was very successful, and was the first Toyota model that was the bestselling car in the USA.
Australia was also the first country outside Japan where Toyota engines were manufactured, starting in 1979. Altona-built engines have been used in Camry for the local and export markets, including those in Thailand and Malaysia.
While manufacturing operations will cease, the Altona complex will still be utilised by Toyota for other purposes. These include the development of a Centre of Excellence housing the company’s expanded design and engineering capabilities. At present, a 150-strong team already provides such services from Australia to Toyota affiliates around the globe.
“The Centre of Excellence will include a world-class training facility and other commercial initiatives that will enhance the company’s business and the community,” said Dave Buttner, President of Toyota Australia.
Mr. Buttner said Toyota would continue to be the leading automotive brand in Australia, retaining approximately 1,300 local employees and the existing dealer network of more than 270 sites. “Toyota will maintain a sizeable presence in Australia. The company will continue to provide the Australian market with a diverse range of high quality vehicles, which I have no doubt will exceed expectations,” he added.
As part of Toyota Australia’s transition to a national sales and distribution company, the consolidation of all corporate functions from Sydney to Melbourne will take effect by January 1, 2018.
Toyota Australia Chairman Max Yasuda also announced the Toyota Community Trust, initiated through a A$32 million endowment, which is to be left as a lasting legacy of the company’s proud 54-year history of local manufacturing.
“The Toyota Community Trust will enable us to create new beginnings for young people and provide all employees, especially those who are leaving today, with another reason to be proud of their time with Toyota,” Mr. Yasuda said. The company has ensured that all employees are given maximum assistance in finding new jobs and have received generous redundancy packages as well as discounts on purchases of Toyota vehicles for up to 5 years or even a lifetime, depending on how long they have been employed.
“As promised in 2014, the company has been committed to doing everything that we can to support our employees as we transition to a national sales and distribution company,” added Mr. Buttner. “Our goal has been to ensure that employees feel confident and well prepared for their future when they leave Toyota. A program will continue to support our employees until mid-2018, and will be in regular contact in years to come.”
Toyota’s factory closure follows that of Ford which shut down two of its factories in Australia while GM-Holden closed its engine plant last November and will also be stopping vehicle manufacturing operations at another factory in South Australia soon. With that closure, Australia will no longer have any vehicle manufacturing operations.