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Toyota Australia hybrid gains momentum

VIPs: Victorian premier John Brumby and Holden boss Mark Reuss at MIMS.

Prospects of an Aussie-built Camry hybrid gain weight as governments lobby Toyota

Toyota logo6 Mar 2008


THE push for a hybrid Toyota to be built in Australia has gained momentum with Victorian premier John Brumby and federal industry minister, Kim Carr, traveling to Japan to lobby the automotive giant.

Mr Brumby flew to Nagoya to visit Toyota a fortnight ago, while Mr Carr spent a day with the car-maker’s senior management last Thursday.

The new federal government has pledged a $500 million Green Car Innovation Fund, funding that could be made available for a hybrid powertrain project.

A spokeswoman for Senator Carr told The Australian that the meeting was “very productive” and that he had: “re-enforced the federal government’s enthusiasm for the motor vehicle industry.” A Toyota Australia spokesman told GoAuto Mr Carr had made a “courtesy visit” to introduce himself to senior Toyota management.

While Toyota Australia was not keen to talk-up the hybrid production lobbying, given the plans are at this stage embryonic, Mr Brumby was only too keen to discuss how much the Victorian government wanted the project to go ahead when he visited the Melbourne International Motor Show on Friday.

“If you asked me would I liked to see a hybrid vehicle manufactured here in Victoria, of course I would, it would be a fantastic thing for our industry,” Mr Brumby said.

 center imageLeft: Toyota 1/X Hybrid concept.

“Toyota has got five manufacturing centres around the world, they are all long-running productions, it is very competitive vehicle industry at the moment so getting them across the line on a decision like this would be a big, big step.

Mr Brumby knows global considerations will ultimately determine the decision, but wanted to make it clear the state government was doing all it can to help Toyota’s Altona operation produce a hybrid car.

“So I can’t guarantee this will happen, I can say that it is something we want, I can say that is why I visited Nagoya and spent the day with Toyota, I can say that I have had positive talks, but at the end of the day this will be a decision that the company will make,” Mr Brumby said.

“They have also had discussions with the federal government, with minister Carr who has been over there, so this is something we are keen to do but at the end of the day the numbers have to add up for Toyota.” Mr Brumby is clearly a hybrid and plug-in hybrid convert and talked-up the technology.

“In an environment of climate change people need to take the medium term (view) on this, if you really want to tackle emissions in the transport industry then at some stage in the future you are going to have to be able to plug a car into a power source that is renewable, and hybrids are the only technology that allows you to do that,” he said.

“I think in the medium term they are going to be a key part of the solution to climate change, it doesn’t mean that diesels and turbo diesels that get very good fuel economy aren’t important, they are, but one day you are have to be able to plug the car into a renewable power source, fill up on renewables so there is no addition to carbon dioxide and only a hybrid will do that.” Steve Bracks, who handed over the position of Victorian premier to Mr Brumby last year, is heading up an Australian automotive review on behalf of the federal government that could impact the Toyota hybrid project.

The review will consider the impact on Australia’s automotive industry of the new-vehicle import tariff (which is scheduled to drop from 10 to five per cent in 2010), free-trade agreements, the Automotive Competitiveness and Investment Scheme (ACIS), changing buyer tastes and climate change, among a host of other issues.

It is also understood the report would also guide the implementation of the federal government’s planned $500 million Green Car Innovation Fund.

A preliminary submission is due on March 31, with a final report to be completed by July 31.

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