Toyota could leave Australia before its 2017 deadline, with the company refusing to guarantee it won’t shut its factories early.
Speaking exclusively to Wheels, company spokesperson Beck Angel said that, while Toyota will make every effort to stay until 2017, it can’t guarantee its workers’ futures.
“We still have customers that we need to service and build cars and engines for right up until our plant closes,” she said. “We will now work closely with our local suppliers, key stakeholders and the government to work through an appropriate transition process. We will, of course, work with our employees and support them as much as possible during the next few years.”
More than 2500 employees are expected to lose their jobs as a result of Toyota’s closure, with 30,000 more to be affected in the wider automotive industry.
But, unlike Ford and Holden, Toyota says its closure isn’t the result of tumbling sales in the large-car segment. Instead, unfeasible economic conditions, compounded by a high Australian dollar, high manufacturing costs and low economies of scale have been blamed.
“Our vehicles continue to be high sellers in Australia,” said Angel. “In fact, the Camry is consistently among the top 10 sellers in Australia every year and is in high demand from our export customers. The Camry has been the best-selling car in its segment for 20 years.”
It’s a trend Toyota expects to continue until 2017, with the company not anticipating any buyer backlash from its decision to terminate local production. Both Ford and Holden have seen sales nosedive in the fallout of their closure announcements.
As for what will remain of Toyota in Australia, the company’s design team should continue unchanged as it completes work for the entire Asia Pacific region.
“They don’t work exclusively on the design of our locally built vehicles, so they will continue to operate following the plant closure,” said Angel. “But it’s too soon to speculate on this, broadly speaking. We need time to assess what our business will look like beyond 2017.”