TOYOTA is about to lock in its final day of Australian production.
Wheels has learned that senior management at Toyota’s Australian operations are in talks with senior executives in Japan today and are expected to know tomorrow of the Altona-based assembly line’s final production date. The carmaker’s 2500 engine casting and manufacturing staff are expected to be told the date at a meeting on Wednesday.
Toyota says it does not have the same obligation as Holden to warn parts suppliers at least 40 weeks before switching off production. However, if it did, Toyota’s production lines would have remained open until about November 10.
A Toyota Australia spokeswoman said the carmaker had always planned to lock in a final day for production “in the first quarter” of 2017. However, she said the carmaker would not announce the date until it had “advised our employees and key stakeholders”.
Toyota was the last Australian carmaker to cave after Ford announced in 2013 it would shutter its Australian operations after a $600 million run of losses and sparking the industry’s drawn-out three-year collapse.
It sold 30,318 locally-built Toyota Camry, Camry hybrid and V6-engined Aurion sedans last year. In contrast, Holden built 43,246 Commodore and Cruze passenger cars, while Ford built just 13,532 Falcon and Territory models in its last 10 months of production.
Toyota’s links to Australia stretch back to the late 1950s, when 13 Toyota LandCruisers were imported to work on the Snowy Mountains Scheme, at the time Australia’s largest public infrastructure project. The first sales of the LandCruiser started in 1959.
Local assembly of Toyota cars officially started in 1963 with the Tiara – a car that a year later would become the Corona. In 1964, the Crown was added to the line, and in 1968 the Toyota Corolla.
The Altona engine plant, which today makes four-cylinder powerplants for both normal and hybrid versions of the Camry, rolled out its first engine in 1978.
In 1987, Toyota Australia switched from building the Corona at Port Melbourne to another mid-sizer called the Camry.
In 1991, Toyota rose to market dominance in Australia, displacing Ford and Holden for the title of the nation’s best-selling brand. Four years later, it would consolidate its manufacturing operations at Altona.
Camry production became a strong export earner for Toyota, which built cars for the Middle East. At one stage, four out of every five Camry models built were shipped out of Australia.
More than three million Toyotas have been built in Australia.