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Toyota exit: 77 per cent of Sydney staff let go

Home now: Toyota Australia’s head office in Port Melbourne (left) is the new centre for sales and marketing operations that were previously were done in Sydney (below).

Toyota’s sales and marketing transfer to Melbourne causes 280 job casualties

Toyota logo4 Oct 2017

By RON HAMMERTON

JUST 80 of the 360 people employed by Toyota Motor Corporation Australia at its Sydney-based national sales and marketing operation are set to transfer to Melbourne under the company’s consolidation to the Victorian capital.

This means that 280 staffers – about 77 per cent of the Toyota workforce at the New South Wales office in Caringbah, near Botany Bay – will either retire or take redundancy.

It is unclear how many were offered jobs in Melbourne, and how many of those were unwilling to up stumps and move.

The switch to Melbourne coincides with the closing yesterday of Toyota’s sole car manufacturing plant at Altona in Melbourne’s west.

In all, 2600 Toyota workers are departing the company, cutting Toyota’s Australian workforce from 3900 in 2014 – when the decision to quit manufacturing was made – to 1300 from January 1 this year.

Of the remaining staff, about 150 are transitioning from the manufacturing side of the business to the new-look import operation.

Like most other remaining core functions, the sales and marketing operations will be run out of Toyota Australia’s Port Melbourne head office which is currently being renovated to accommodate the new set-up.

The product planning division that was previously based in Sydney has already made the transfer, sliding in beside the engineering division that, from now on, will focus on tailoring imported cars for Australian conditions.

Toyota Australia’s retiring president Dave Buttner indicated that the decision to relocate sales and marketing to Melbourne had not been entirely easy.

“Location was always a big issue,” he said. “Sydney historically always was the home of sales and marketing and Melbourne our headquarters and manufacturing site.”

The splitting of Toyota’s operations between the two cities dates from the 1980s when Sydney-based Thiess Toyota – an independent Toyota distribution company that handled commercial vehicles and SUVs such as the HiAce and LandCruiser – was bought out by the factory and incorporated into Toyota’s Australian system.

It was decided to retain sales and marketing in Sydney under former Thiess director John Conomos, while Thiess chief executive Robert Johnston came to Melbourne to run the head office and manufacturing, which was focused in Victoria.

Current Toyota Australia vice-president and president-in-waiting Matthew Callachor said the transfer of sales and marketing duties to a largely new team in Melbourne meant the company had to go to some lengths to ensure a smooth changeover between the time the changes were decided in 2014 to now.

He said the company came up with a system of transferring both knowledge and responsibilities from the original incumbent to the new team member.

Mr Callachor said a system called “double teaming” was introduced. This required the new and old team members to work side by side for a period to learn the ropes.

“Over a period of time, the new person gets to observe the incumbent – usually for about a year – to see how the job is performed,” he said.

“The second component is they then jointly start to share the responsibilities, and thirdly, the new person takes over the role of decision-making but has the safety of the other person beside them to actually guide them if there is any questions.

“Yes, it is expensive, because it means we are maintaining two people for one job, but we can hopefully aim for an almost seamless transition.” Toyota also racked up a huge Qantas bill during this period, as employees shuttled between the two cities for work.

Toyota Australia sales and marketing executive director Tony Cramb said the transfer of responsibilities also required sales and marketing staff to document work functions – “a blueprint for success” – to ensure new staffers had a reference to fall back on.

“The outgoing team’s job was to document every single process that we have in sales and marketing, of which there are 1650 processes,” he said.

“Those processes were documented immediately in the first six months of this period (after the closure announcement in 2014), and then they have been progressively handed over to the new incumbents as they come in.”

The documentation process also extended to associated organisations, such as advertising and public relations agencies.

Mr Cramb is one of the Sydney-based Toyota executives who will not join the transfer, electing to depart the company at the end of December when a new team takes over the reins.

Another is national public affairs manager Mike Breen, who is being replaced in Melbourne by Aleks Kracjer – the only outsider to be appointed to a senior position under the new sales and marketing arrangement.

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