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Camry: world beater

To succeed, Toyota’s new Camry must take on the world's best mid-sizers

Toyota logo1 Aug 2006

AS HOLDEN’S VE Commodore juggernaut continued this week, Toyota launched its sixth-generation Camry – a car that is no less significant in determining the future of Australian vehicle manufacturing.

Arguably the most important car Toyota Australia has ever built, the medium-sized sedan will play the lead role in the company’s intriguing new medium-four and large-six (Aurion) strategy in Australia.

But, more than that, it must be the world’s best Camry.

As well as being built at Altona in Victoria, this new-generation Camry is built in five other locations abroad: China, the United States, Taiwan, Japan and Thailand.

Unlike other Aussie manufacturers, Toyota Australia must face the increasingly demanding prospect of earning the right to build its future cars against internal global competition. It won the right to build the new Camry on the basis of its ability to meet tough costs and to deliver targets.

To ensure this, Toyota Australia has invested $450 million to install the more efficient "global body line" which apart from Camry will allow the assembly of the Aurion V6 – and possibly a third vehicle – on the same production line.

It is the only Camry production facility that will build two distinct cars down the same line. Both cars will be key export earners, with Toyota tipping 80,000 Camry-Aurion exports within two years. The bulk of these, though, will be Camry.

While the global cars are virtually interchangeable, Toyota Australia is in a strong position after having won the right to play a major role in this car’s development. It has had significant input over the past four years.

8 center imageToyota Australia chairman John Conomos summed it up best: "Our investment in the Australian operations and the place Australia now holds in global determination has increased our position exponentially.

"The relatively new $34 million investment in TTCAu (Toyota Technical Centre Asia-Pacific) in Melbourne is a major statement in confidence, in our capability in offering engineering services that achieve world’s best practice.

"This gives us great potential for the future development of our product in this country." That means Toyota Australia is well placed to build the next-generation Camrys beyond 2011. And Mr Conomos foresees a growing global role for TTCAu.

Last month Toyota Australia’s vehicle engineering and evaluation department was folded into TTCAu to provide closer continuity of change in the global network.

"The things we want for our future cars will be actioned more smoothly and our ability to influence global outcomes now will become even greater," Mr Conomos said.

According to chief designer Paul Beranger, Australia voiced input into the new car even before the first clay model was sculptured.

Australia developed its Camry concurrently with the rest of the world, but two areas stand out where Aussie ingenuity was adopted throughout the rest of the Toyota world. Toyota Australia had originally wanted the rear heater ducts placed under the front seats – Japan eventually capitulated – and when the other five plants found out about it, they wanted it also.

A similar story goes for the Australian-developed suspension. Thailand, New Zealand, the Middle East and even the United States – which is traditionally a softer-riding market – have all opted for Aussie-spec suspension.

In Australia, Toyota believes its Camry has the goods to tackle offerings from Mazda, Honda and Subaru. But the Camry is more than a local star in the Toyota galaxy. It must go beyond tomorrow.

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