Toyota shuts shop - A Wheels exclusive report

Toyota shuts shop - A Wheels exclusive report

WHEELS will be updating from Altona to bring you an on the ground account of Toyota's final day of manufacturing.

We will update the story with live updates across the day.

It is estimated 2700 factory workers will be jobless once the factory closes at approximately 1pm this afternoon.

Since it first started producing cars in the country in 1963, Toyota has built 3,451,115 vehicles in Australia.

Of those, 1,245,914 were built for export, predominately for the Middle Eastern market.

The Tiara small sedan was the first Toyota built in Australia, constructed locally in 1963 as a CKD kit.

It is likely a Camry sedan will be the last vehicle to roll off the Altona production line later today.

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12:42pm

The robots that built the Camry and the Aurion? They are at the end of their life and will be scrapped.

12:30pm

An employee’s wristband for today. The factory will continue to operate, but will do modifications to imported vehicles, and commercial vehicles. 

12:08pm

Workers are now leaving the Toyota factory for the last time.

11:52am

An employee leaving Altona early says the last Camry was built last Tuesday night, but held on the line until Wednesday morning for a separate ceremony commemorating Australian manufacturing. Today was a thank-you for employees, he said.

11:20am

That’s it. A parade of classic Toyotas, led by a Toyopet Tiara, a few Lexus cars, a fuel cell Mirai, and down the back a single red Camry with a banner across the windscreen - the last one? Everyone now heads inside the factory for the main ceremony. 

11:15am

The parade has ended with a Toyota Camry.

11:13am

A Toyota Tiara has led a parade lap of the Altona factory in front of the gathered crowd.

10:55am

A fire truck has just turned up, its lights flashing red and blue. The crowd cheers. Five minutes to go. 

10:52am

There must be about 3000 people here now lining about a kilometre of road. They’re still flooding in via the main office.

10:50am

Ten minutes out from the start of the ceremony a subdued roar builds up in the crowd. It’s over quickly, though.

10:45am

A closer view. There’s a real stadium buzz, like the crowd before a grand final. Although we all know this is a final of a different kind. 

10:34am

More is coming to light about what Toyota plans to do in half an hour’s time. Workers and management are lining the access road to the factory, and what looks like a video camera on a boom is located at one end. Will someone be taking the last Aussie-made Camry on a parade lap?

10:25am

Unlike Ford, where media packed the front gate, there’s now almost no TV crews remaining. People walking in on foot offer a “no comment” when asked what they expect to see today.

10:19am

A crowd is starting to gather outside the assembly line.

10:10am

Many more people are starting to arrive. A black Lexus LS600h limousine transfers a single occupant - could it be the retiring Toyota Motor Corporation Australia chief executive Max Yasuda? The whisper is Toyota’s global chief, Akio Toyoda, won’t be attending today. He was there on the day three years ago when Toyota announced it would follow in the footsteps of Ford and Holden in closing its manufacturing base here - the first one it established outside of Japan.

9:50am

An invitation to today’s closure ceremony. About 200 VIPs as well as workers from the Altona plant and the nearby Port Melbourne office that will become the company’s head office from next year are attending.

9:39am

Management starts to make its way onto the factory floor.

9:34am

Workers from Toyota’s Port Melbourne office are starting to arrive on buses. One, wearing a sharp suit and arriving by taxi, kicks off a conversation with his travelling mate: “Well, you can blame Tony Abbott ...”

9:29am

An employee has just walked out of the Grieve Parade gates. We ask him if the last Camry has come off the line. “Not yet, not yet,” is his response.

9:22am

More VIPs are showing up, this time in a Mercedes-Benz C-Class and a Holden Caprice. Both wear corporate taxi plates. 

9:16am

Workers are starting to gather outside the assembly line building. Has the last Camry already come off the line?

9:08am

Things are really slowing down at Altona as the VIPs continue to trickle in in a procession of Camrys. It’s so slow, we’ve learned that the same coffee company that catered for Ford’s closure last year is catering today for Toyota, and in a few weeks’ time, Holden.

8:58am

The buzz on the final day of manufacturing at Toyota is very different to that of Ford 12 months ago. The media contingent is much smaller, security isn’t as tight; it’s almost as though Toyota is the forgotten brand. Last year the Ford faithful were queueing up in front of the sign at Ford’s Broadmeadows factory to take a photo of their car where it was made - there’s none of that here. 

8:41am

Office staff pose for a last photo outside the Altona complex. They say the only activity planned for today is the ceremony at 12.30pm.

8:28am

Toyota executives are starting to arrive at the factory. 

8:27am

Toyotas parked in the employees car park. The car maker offered generous discounts to employees to buy them.

8:19AM

Workers are still flowing into the factory, even though this morning’s shift started at 7am. The foyer is crowded with people, some wearing “SUPPORT” T-Shirts

8:11am

Toyota has reserved 200 car parks for VIPs and guests for this afternoon’s ceremony, expected to start about 12.30pm

8:07am

Toyota worker Matthew Kinson has only ever worked for the car maker. He says Toyota opted to donate cars to the community rather than raffle them off to workers like Ford did.

Kinson says he is proud to have worked for Toyota. The factory has run two shifts, so he says there’s a 50 percent chance that every Camry he sees on the road he has had a hand in making. 

7:58am

A small group of Toyota's factory workers have fronted the media before the final shift begins.

7:51am

The Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union automotive secretary is holding a press conference outside the plant.

7:00am

We are on the ground at Altona ahead of Toyota's final day of manufacturing

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