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PM, Toyota chief endorse Camry Hybrid plan

Sipper: Hybrid Camry is said to use one-third less fuel than its petrol sibling.

Hybrid Camry plan officially welcomed by PM, federal industry minister, Toyota pres

8 Jul 2008

TOYOTA’S plan to manufacture 10,000 Camry Hybrid sedans in Australia from 2010 was announced simultaneously by Victorian premier John Brumby at Altona and Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd and his industry minister Kim Carr at Toyota Motor Corporation headquarters in Nagoya, Japan, on June 10.

Now the project to build Australia’s first petrol-electric vehicle has received in-person endorsement from the same three politicians, who attended a joint press conference at Toyota’s Altona plant on July 1, when TMC boss Katsuaki Watanabe was also in Melbourne during his first visit to Australia since becoming president.

Apart from meeting with all three Labor figures in Melbourne, Mr Watanabe visited his Australian subsidiary’s manufacturing plant, toured supplier facilities and dined with senior Toyota Australia executives.

“I had dinner with him on Tuesday night,” TMCA sales and marketing director David Buttner confirmed to GoAuto. “He came down because he hadn’t been to Australia since he was president.

“He had a view of every aspect of our operations. He had a look at TMCAU engineering, the manufacturing facility, we gave him a sales and marketing presentation and he visited a couple of suppliers.

“For us it was a very significant visit and he also had meetings with government. This is part of his standard routine - he travels the world visiting Toyota facilities to understand what they’re about and what they’re up to.

“He’s an exciting man to talk to, he really stimulates you,” said Mr Buttner.

Speaking at Altona last week, Mr Rudd said his industry minister, the Victorian premier and himself believed passionately in the future of Australian manufacturing.

“We also believe passionately in the future of the Australian automobile industry and that’s why we’re here today with our friends from Toyota.

“Let’s be very clear about the facts. This hybrid will consume one third less petrol and therefore produce one third less emissions. Good for the family budget, good for the environment. And that’s why the Australian Government and Victorian Government are backing this project.

“Can I say that this has been made possible at the Commonwealth end as a result of the Green Car Innovation Fund. That’s something that the Industry Minister Kim Carr has been behind from the beginning. And this Green Car Innovation Fund forms the backbone, a half billion dollar backbone, to our new car plan for Australia.

8 center imageLeft: TMC boss Katsuaki Watanabe and Victorian premier John Brumby.

“Our new car plan for Australia has as its core what we do to make greater number and range of fuel efficient vehicles in this country in the future. That’s what the Green Car Innovation Fund is all about. That’s what our new car plan for Australia is all about. And it begins with this decision to bring in an Australian manufactured hybrid here at Toyota from 2010,” said Mr Rudd.

Mr Brumby described the Camry Hybrid plan as “an extraordinarily exciting decision by Toyota, an extraordinarily positive decision for the motor vehicle industry in Australia.

“It brings together the very best in manufacturing with the combined efforts we’ve got across all of the Governments of Australia to tackle climate change. And as the Prime Minister has just said that the best way of doing that is through hybrid vehicles.

“If we want to tackle climate change, the best way to do that is through hybrid vehicles. If we want to reduce emissions in the transport sector, the best way to do that is through hybrid vehicles. And of course the next generation of hybrid vehicles, the plug in vehicles, you’ll be able to buy your hybrid car, take it home at night, and if you’re a subscriber to green power, plug into the power point and your car will be completely carbon neutral.

“And in terms of these big challenges we’ve got in Australia at the moment, how we sustain our manufacturing industry, how we tackle climate change, there is no better way of doing this than through the production of hybrid vehicles. “As you know the President of Toyota Mr Watanabe is in Melbourne and of course the Prime Minister met him on his visit. I met the President earlier this year in Nagoya in February.

“I met with the President this morning and today at lunchtime, the Prime Minister, Senator Carr and I will be meeting again with President Watanabe to have further discussions about Toyota and about their possible investments in the future.

“And we welcome his visit here to Melbourne and we welcome his strong endorsement of the Government support which has been provided for this great project,” said Mr Brumby.

Asked by journalists whether the government’s hybrid vehicle push would extend beyond Toyota, Mr Rudd pointed to talks between Mr Carr and both Ford and General Motors in the US last month.

“Well, we had a very good discussion, Kim and myself, with Mr Watanabe and his executives in Nagoya less than a month ago. And I know he already has developed a strong working relationship with the Premier through the Premier’s earlier visit to Nagoya this year.

“We will obviously discuss more of the details concerning the 2010 project. But we’re also concerned about the long term. What we want is to see long term commitment and investment in Australian automobile manufacturing. Toyota is part of that. I also notice that Senator Carr, would note, that Senator Carr has also been in Detroit and has had discussions also with Ford and GM.

“For us, the three of us, we are passionate believers in the future of this industry. And that means working in partnership with the big car companies. We make no apology for that. And we will talk, we will jawbone, we will negotiate, we will get the best deal – hopefully – for the Australian consumer, and hopefully for Australian manufacturing and hopefully for Australian manufacturing jobs.

“In the case of hybrids and fuel efficient vehicles generally, the best deal possible for the environment as well,” said Mr Rudd.

Mr Butter told GoAuto last week that Toyota was conscious of the need to position the Camry Hybrid price-competitively to ensure its success in Australia. But he would not divulge the price premium it would carry over the standard Camry sedan, and therefore its purchase cost payback period – factors that are likely to decide its success among private buyers.

“To the best of my knowledge the numbers that have been quoted have been journalists looking at the entry-level cost in the US – most people say it’s about $4000.

“We’re still working through the pricing equation, suffice to say we see it as an incredibly important vehicle and an incredibly important addition to the Toyota model range.

“We always look at the pricing of our vehicles to position them in the marketplace so we can capitalise on opportunities. There is no reason why we wouldn’t look at our Camry Hybrid in the same light.

“It’s early days - we’re more than 12 months away and we will look at all of the input costs and try to make sure we provide value for money for our customers as we always try and do.

“I’d like to think that Camry Hybrid can sell as a value for money proposition in the marketplace on its merits and its credentials because it’s very exciting.

“A lot of things have been written and spoken about it, but for us as a company we view it as a significant contribution to society and to automotive manufacturing in this country, and we’re not going to do anything to blow the opportunity the maximise our volume potential,” said Mr Buttner.

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