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Toyota’s Australian HQ on the line too

Office politics: Port Melbourne has been home to Toyota Australia for five decades.

Any decision by Toyota to join Holden in exit queue could mean power shift to Sydney

Toyota logo12 Dec 2013

By RON HAMMERTON

VICTORIA stands to lose more than a major car factory and related parts suppliers if Toyota Australia follows Holden and Ford in closing its automotive manufacturing operations in Australia.

Without Camry production to support, the Japanese giant would have precious few reasons to maintain its Australian head office in Port Melbourne, on the site of its original factory where Toyota started building cars in Australia 50 years ago.

Toyota’s sales, marketing and product planning functions are already located in Sydney, at Caringbah, by Botany Bay, and if the company moves to become a full-line importer from 2018, as many fear, this facility could call all the shots on the Australian operation.

The Port Melbourne head office currently houses top management, including Toyota Australia president Max Yasuda and second-in-command Dave Buttner, along with administration staff for the Australian operations.

Many of the admin staff, including the parts purchasing team, would be surplus to requirements with the demise of the factory.

Since 2003, Toyota also has maintained an engineering and design presence in Melbourne, with 140 employees based at Toyota Technical Centre Australia, in the outer eastern suburb of Notting Hill.

This technical centre is one of only five such Toyota engineering bases in the world, with others in Japan, the United States, Belgium and Thailand.

Among projects underway at this centre is the development of the chassis tuning for the next generation HiLux.

Also, Toyota’s Melbourne design centre has been responsible for jobs such as the Asian-focussed Fortuna SUV, which is based on the HiLux, and Chinese Grand Camry, but is much smaller than similar units operated by Holden and Ford in Victoria.

Just as Holden has axed its Australian product engineering operation, the danger is that the vehicle development side of the business in Australia might also fall victim to any cuts association with a discontinuation of manufacturing.

Toyota has raised the spectre of closing its Altona plant yesterday, saying in a statement in response to Holden’s decision to withdraw from local manufacturing: “This will place unprecedented pressure on the local supplier network and our ability to build cars in Australia.”

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