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Still no decision on Toyota design studio

Design led: Toyota Australia's design chief Nick Hogios with the Aurion large car that his team designed.

Studio chief Nic Hogios is confident of Toyota's local design future

Toyota logo27 Jun 2014

THE future of Toyota Australia’s Port Melbourne design studio still has not been resolved months after the company's global president Akio Toyoda announced the closure of the Altona engine and assembly plants.

But design chief Nic Hogios remains optimistic about the outlook based on the quality of the work done in the studio’s first 11 years and the volume of work there is available in the wider Toyota world.

Mr Hogios was speaking to GoAuto after the presentation of the 2014 VACC Automotive Design Awards to secondary and tertiary students.

The uncertainty surrounding his studio and his job did not, however, prevent him from paying an indirect tribute to one of his fellow judges and the director of design at GM Holden, Richard Ferlazzo.

During a panel discussion on the outlook for industrial design in Australia and the need to maintain a supply of graduate students, Mr Hogios recalled the days when he was studying.

“When I was at uni there was no internet. We had to scour the shelves to find a magazine that even had a sketch in it,” he said. “I actually cut out one of Richard’s sketches and stuck it on the wall.” It was a fine compliment for Mr Ferlazzo, who penned the stunning Efijy concept car, which won rave reviews inside the GM world and beyond.

Mr Hogios told GoAuto that the confirmation of the end of local manufacturing was still relatively fresh inside Toyota and that the company was still rearranging its plans.

“We provide a good service to our own company and other affiliates, so I don’t see any reason why that can’t continue. But we are in the middle of it all.” He said the design studio, previously known as Toyota Style Australia, was one of a handful of design centres outside Japan, established 11 years ago. It employs 20 designers, more in busy periods.

“No, we’re not feeling vulnerable. We have got a lot of proven successes over the years.

“It is just a matter of working through all the issues that not having manufacturing will bring.”

Despite its size, the studio had been instrumental in some large projects. It had a lot of involvement in the previous generation Aurion, which was exported to the Middle East and sold in other countries as the Prestige Camry.

“After that we worked on the current model Fortuner,” he said, referring to the medium-sized SUV which is based on the HiLux chassis and made in Thailand, Indonesia and six other countries.

“That was a significant facelift. We are very proud of that and it is still going strong in all the markets. We did the front and rear and a lot of the exterior. That was a great facelift for us.

“Right now we are just supporting the other affiliates to tailor their products better for their markets and supporting our own operation in its markets.”

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