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Toyota puts Altona machinery up for sale

Going going: Machinery from Toyota’s sole car manufacturing plant in Australia is now the focus of a global online sale ahead of the Altona plant’s closure in October.

Giant auto manufacturing equipment sale starts as Toyota shuts up shop in Oz

Toyota logo10 May 2017

By RON HAMMERTON

TOYOTA has placed the manufacturing machinery of its Altona factory up for sale as Japan’s biggest motor company prepares to draw the curtain on more than half a century of Australian car production in October.

Vehicle manufacturers from Asia to North America are said to be queuing up for items that range from huge transfer presses to an entire water treatment plant under the “private treaty” joint sale by Australia’s GraysOnline and American-based Hilco Industrial Acquisitions ahead of the factory closure on October 3.

After that, remaining equipment will be sold to the highest bidder in an online auction designed to clear the decks by February 2018 when buyers will be required to start removing their purchases from the shop floor. By April next year, the whole lot should be gone.

Rival Ford is already in the process of decommissioning its factories at Broadmeadows and Geelong, while Holden has for months been pre-selling its local manufacturing equipment at its Elizabeth factory ahead of its closure at the same time at Toyota’s operations, bringing the golden era of the Australian automotive industry to a juddering halt.

Capable of producing up to 100,000 cars a year, the Altona plant on a 31-hectare site in Melbourne’s western suburbs is said to have made 3.4 million cars for Australia and export markets since it took over from Toyota’s now-defunct Port Melbourne factory as the Japanese giant’s central manufacturing hub in 1994.

Before that, the Altona site had since 1978 operated as Toyota’s engine manufacturing plant – a role it continues to play, at least until October.

The factory closure is expected to cost about 2600 direct manufacturing and corporate jobs, reducing Toyota Australia’s payroll from 3900 workers to 1300.

Sale items cover paint shop, assembly, engine shop, press shop, welding shop and ancillary services such as compressors and boilers.

The engine shop alone has more than 100 machines up for sale, covering everything from aluminium casting equipment to camshaft grinders.

According to GraysOnline, “substantial interest” has been shown by global buyers in the machinery and equipment at the facility.

The company said its expectation of strong demand was based on solid auction results in recent months in Australia and globally. Presumably, those local results include sales of similar equipment at Ford Australia and Holden.

GraysOnline sales and operations executive general manager Josh Sanders said the scale of the planned online asset sales represents a tremendous opportunity for automotive and other manufacturers across the region and globally, given the extent of Toyota’s operations in Altona.

He described the offerings as extremely diverse and included a range of presses, robots, welding units, testing equipment, cranes and other assembly line equipment.

“Many of these assets will have applications outside of automotive manufacturing, and will be marketed extensively to buyers across industries,” he said.

Toyota manufacturing operations in Australia dates back to 1963 when Australian Motor Industries (AMI) began making the Toyota Tiara sedan under licence from the fledgling Japanese company. It was one of the first Toyota manufacturing operations outside of Japan and used as a test bed for future ventures in other markets, including the United States.

Toyota bought out British’s Leyland’s interest in AMI in 1972, and later established its engine plant at Altona in 1978.

When Australian government policy pressured car manufacturers to join forces in the 1980s, Toyota teamed up with Holden – a move that resulted in an ill-fated model-sharing arrangement.

That confused arrangement had Holden’s plant at Dandenong building Toyota Corollas that were also sold under Holden badges as Novas, while Toyota’s Port Melbourne plant produced Camrys that were also sold as Holden Apollos and Holden’s SA-built Commodores were offered as the Toyota Lexcen.

When that deal fell apart – to Toyota’s financial advantage at the expense of Holden’s parent company General Motors – it committed the windfall to concentrating its car assembly operations at Altona where the Camry has been the mainstay since 1994.

After Holden announced in December 2013 that it would call it quits, Toyota followed suit two months later.

Toyota will consolidate its import distribution, sales and marketing at its Melbourne head office in 2018, a move that will force the closure of the company’s Sydney office.

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