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Camry sales slide right on target, says Toyota

Middle ground: Toyota’s Camry is facing stiff competition from fresh entrants including the all-new Mazda6 and Holden’s Malibu.

Softer sales in line with Camry’s lifecycle, Toyota chief claims

12 Nov 2013

TOYOTA expects to sell fewer locally made Camry and Camry Hybrid sedans in Australia this year than it did in 2012, and will likely shift slightly fewer again in 2014, but says it’s not yet cause for concern.

Camry sales are down 7.6 per cent this year, but suffered a more appreciable fall of 33 per cent in October compared with the same month last year. But the mid-size sedan’s market share has grown to 39.9 per cent, a result of a segment-wide contraction of 16 per cent.

However, raw volume figures for Camry have special significance, considering the local plant at Altona in Melbourne’s west requires certain production levels to remain viable.

Toyota’s projected annual production of 104,000 Camry- and Aurion-badged cars this year (including significant exports) is still well above the “conservative goal” of making even 80,000 total cars produced sustainable, should local and export numbers take a bigger hit.

According to Toyota Australia executive director Tony Cramb, the fall this year and the expected dip next year is to be expected, considering it launched at the end of 2011 and enjoyed the benefits of being fresh to market over the ensuing 12 months.

“It was never a plan to do the same (Camry volume) as last year, as time goes on in the lifecycle. Once again, a very slight reduction in 2014,” he said.

“I think there’s some great new product coming into that market … there are additional models, there’s clearly a market in the medium segment.

“I don’t see it as a segment issue I see it as the product lifecycle of the Camry.”

Next month, Nissan will launch the new Altima mid-sizer, pitched squarely at the Camry from a sub-$30k base. Since the Camry launched in 2011, new models such as the Holden Malibu and the next-generation Mazda6 have gone on sale.

Mr Cramb confirmed a planned 2015 facelift for the Camry was still on the cards, and re-iterated a plan to tweak the V6-engined Aurion around the same date, albeit less substantively.

“Our focus is on Camry and Camry Hybrid, there’s definitely still a market for that sort of vehicle and setup. V6 is a smaller market moving into the future.

Aurion (therefore) gets a smaller facelift than Camry, but will soldier on. It’s not getting the same facelift.”

Aurion sales this year have fallen 23.8 per cent in a large-car segment that has contracted by 21 per cent.

When asked by GoAuto if the Aurion may give way to, potentially, a return to the V6 Camry, or even potentially be axed altogether, Mr Cramb said: “Maybe that day comes, who knows … I think it is definitely a difficult segment, it’s getting harder and harder.

“Can we turn around? I do think we can, but our focus is on Camry and Camry Hybrid.”

Last year, Toyota exported 72,899 Camrys and Aurions from Altona, with 97 per cent of those going to six Gulf Co-operation Council countries – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. It expects a similar figure in 2013.

In August, the company said it was planning to invest $123 million in its local manufacturing operations, with a further $23.6 million promised by the then federal government and another unspecified amount from the Victorian government.

As well, Canberra promised a further $5 million contribution to Toyota’s planned $15 million investment in a supplier development program.

The Toyota Camry/Aurion export program – which also includes small numbers of cars for New Zealand and South Pacific islands – is by far Australia’s biggest car export deal.

The company also exports about 18,000 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol and hybrid engines to Thailand and Malaysia from its refurbished $331 million engine plant that opened next to the Camry-Aurion production plant last year.

The car-maker announced in October that it would need to shed another 100 jobs after export orders started drying up, reducing the number of vehicles rolling off its production line from 470 a day to just 431.

Just a month earlier it had celebrated the milestone of sending its millionth vehicle to the Middle East market.

Toyota says it wants to cut $3800 from the cost of producing each car at Altona by 2018.

Two weeks ago, it flagged that it would seek to change the terms and conditions of its workplace agreement to provide greater flexibility and increase global competitiveness.

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