Toyota to stop Australian manufacturing

Toyota Camrys being built in its Altona manufacturing plant in Victoria. Toyota will stop building cars in Australia from 2017 - marking the end of the country's car-building industry.
Toyota Camrys being built in its Altona manufacturing plant in Victoria. Toyota will stop building cars in Australia from 2017 - marking the end of the country's car-building industry.

Toyota Australia has completed the demise of the Australian car industry less than a week after its Japanese parent company forecast a record profit.

The world's largest car maker announced yesterday it would stop building cars in Australia by the end of 2017 and would only operate as a sales and distribution company.

The decision means the end of at least 2500 jobs among the 4000 employed by Toyota in Australia, with hundreds more bound to go among parts makers and other suppliers.

Toyota New Zealand will continue to source the mid to large-sized Camry and Aurion sedans from Australia until 2017.

"After 40 years of supplying Corona and then Camry to New Zealand customers requiring a mid-size sedan, we can assure customers that we will continue to have an option in the segment," said a Toyota NZ spokesperson.

"It's not our policy however to discuss future model planning four years ahead."
Toyota Australia will roll out one more facelift of the Camry before 2017.

"As a result of the decision the major facelift vehicle, otherwise known as Big Minor Change Camry, will be the last car we produce in the plant," the letter signed by Toyota Australia president Max Yasuda said.

Yasuda said Toyota had come "very close" to securing the next-generation Camry for production in Australia, which would have seen the company operation beyond 2017.

Toyota's departure from Australia after 50 years of car-making follows those of Ford and Holden, which will both close down local operations by the end of 2017.

Yasuda said there is no single reason for the closure.

"We did everything that we could to transform our business, but the reality is that there are too many factors beyond our control that make it unviable to build cars in Australia," Yasuda said.

"Our manufacturing operations have continued to be loss-making despite our best efforts."

Yasuda said the high Australian dollar made exports unviable, as well as the high costs of manufacturing and the small domestic market.

Toyota is Australia's biggest vehicle exporter, with about 70,000 of the 100,000-plus cars it builds here being sold in foreign markets.

Only six days ago the company's president, Akio Toyoda, announced Toyota was on target to bank a profit of almost A$21 billion ($NZ22.7b)

Toyoda, the grandson of the company's founder, was in Melbourne on Monday to make the "painful and heart-breaking" announcement to his Australian workforce.

"I have great respect for what this country has taught Toyota," Toyoda said.

While Toyota's decision to follow Ford and Holden out of the Australian car-making industry is largely seen as inevitable, federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said it brought disgrace on the Abbott government.

He said Labor had $US200 million available to support the automotive sector.

"This is an economic catastrophe with a terrible human cost," Shorten said.

"Tony Abbott does not give a stuff about jobs in Australia."

Toyoda would not comment on what assistance the company had sought from the federal government to remain in Australia.

But Abbott said Toyota chiefs had assured him on Monday they had received nothing but help and encouragement from successive Australian governments, including his.

"Nothing that I say can limit the impact of this devastation and disappointment today (but) there will be better days in the future," the prime minister told reporters.

Like Shorten, ACTU secretary Dave Oliver put the blame squarely on the prime minister.

"Tony Abbott must tell Australians why he is not prepared to stand up for local jobs," Oliver said.

"The Abbott government goaded Holden into leaving. They've done absolutely nothing to keep Toyota in this country.

"As a result Australia will lose up to 50,000 direct skilled jobs, $21 billion will be wiped from the economy and regions will go into recession."

Ford, Australia's oldest car maker, announced last May it would stop making cars locally by the end of 2016, reports say it may be earlier than that.

Holden, which has built cars in Australia for 65 years, said in December it would close down local manufacturing by the end of 2017 with some 2900 workers directly affected.

All three car makers have received substantial government support since the mid-1980s when tariffs began to be wound down.

-AAP, Liz Dobson

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