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Toyota in talks for Holden-style handouts

Show me the money: Greg Combet has revealed he is in talks over funding to help secure the future of Toyota’s Australian car-making operations.

Industry minister confirms he is weighing up more taxpayer dollars for Toyota

4 Jun 2013

TOYOTA is deep in talks with the federal government in the hunt for a similar multimillion-dollar deal signed with Holden to keep it building cars in Australia over the next decade.

Federal industry minister Greg Combet revealed today that he was “working with Toyota on a set of measures” that will ensure it keeps building cars and engines at its Altona production line in Melbourne’s west.

“I’m engaged with very regular contact with both Toyota and General Motors Holden,” Mr Combet told ABC’s Radio National this morning.

“Last year, of course, we announced $215 million added to by the Victorian and South Australian governments to secure an additional $1 billion investment by General Motors that would take (Holden’s) manufacturing operations in Australia through to 2022.

“At the moment I’m working with Toyota on a set of measures as well, and we’re confident of their future in manufacturing,” he said.

Toyota is believed to be negotiating with the federal government over plans to add a third model to its Australian car-making operations that will be built alongside the Camry four-cylinder mid-size sedan and the V6-engined Aurion large sedan.

While Toyota is not due to confirm the addition of a third model until early next year, it is widely believed that talks are revolving around the RAV4 compact soft-roader, which uses the same underpinnings and even the same locally made engine as the Australian-built Camry.

It will also allow Toyota to explore the potential of adding a hybrid version of the SUV to its local production line, alongside the Camry Hybrid.

Mr Combet said that just because he was talking with Toyota, it was not a free kick for the company.

“It doesn’t mean that it is easy,” he said. “It’s very difficult economic times for the motor vehicle manufacturing industry in Australia, principally because of the high value of the Australian dollar.”

Toyota Australia this morning refused to confirm the talks over what level of funding it was seeking to guarantee the future of its Australian car-making operations.

“We meet with the government and opposition on a regular basis to discuss our business and future plans in Australia. We do not discuss details of these meetings via the media,” Toyota Australia’s media and external affairs manager, Beck Angel, told GoAuto.

“Local manufacturing is an important part of Toyota Australia's business model. It is our intention to continue building cars here in Australia.”

Toyota’s local car-making operations have posted a string of losses in recent years, with the tab running up to almost $160 million in red ink in the last three years alone.

It last turned a profit in Australia in the 2008-09 financial year, posting a healthy $123.4 million result.

Toyota Australia is expected to announce its 2012-13 financial result next week.

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