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Toyota silent on potential car-killing position paper

Running on empty: Toyota says it will wait for the Productivity Commission’s final report due in March before commenting on what it means for the car-maker’s future.

Toyota says it will wait for March’s final PC report on car industry

Toyota logo3 Feb 2014

TOYOTA has refused to weigh in on the release of a damning Productivity Commission position paper last week that could spell the end to all car-making in Australia.

The paper, released Friday, recommends the federal government abandon all financial support for Australia’s beleaguered automotive manufacturing industry, placing Toyota’s bid to build next-generation Camry and Aurion sedans – and potentially even a new, as-yet unannounced vehicle – at risk.

However, Toyota Australia media and external affairs manager Beck Angel said the car-maker would not be responding to the position paper’s release on Friday.

“We will not be making any comments until the final PC report in March,” she said.

Toyota is due to reveal a refreshed version of its mid-size and large cars later this year or in early 2015 as part of its regular model cycle updates. The company has also previously said it would consider adding a third model possibly the RAV4 SUV.

However, the car-maker is currently pitched in a tense fight with its workforce as it tries to cut costs at its Altona-based engine and car-making production lines to secure head office approval to build next-generation cars in Australia. The decision has to be made this year.

Toyota is also in the process of appealing a recent court decision that has stopped it from thrashing out a range of efficiency measures with its 2500 employees as part of an effort to cut $3800 from the cost of each vehicle it makes.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union late last week said it was not at war with the car-maker over wages and working conditions.

Instead, AMWU national secretary Paul Bastian said the union wanted Toyota to open its company books to workers, similar to a deal thrashed out with Holden that allowed Adelaide-based think tank academic and Advanced Manufacturing Council chairman Professor Goran Roos to pour over the numbers to see where he believed savings could be made.

The report has not been publicly scrutinised since its release despite Holden’s decision to quit Australia shortly after it was presented to unions and government.

Toyota is uniquely placed as an Australian car-maker, exporting seven out of every 10 cars it makes here. Holden, and particularly Ford, sell most of the cars they build in Australia.

Meanwhile, the lobby group representing Australia’s car-making industry has reacted angrily to the PC’s position paper, labelling it “extremely disappointing”.

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries said it was “unsurprising” that the commission “again runs the same argument it always runs: that the world would be a better place if only the Australian government didn’t support the automotive industry”.

“Today’s release, along with recent statements by parts of the government on industry assistance, reinforces the need for the government to ask itself what type of economy the government wants for Australia,” the FCAI said in a statement.

“The government should be careful in weighing the input provided by the PC as it considers this important question.

“This is particularly relevant given that the Productivity Commission did not address the industry assistance provided by other countries.

“This is despite the fact that the terms of reference state explicitly that the PC is to take into account the assistance provided to the automotive industry ‘by major and emerging automotive-producing countries’.

“It is extremely disappointing that the PC considered this was ‘not feasible for this inquiry’, despite the 19 pages at appendix B on international assistance arrangements that shows the extensive levels of assistance used by governments around the world to support their local industries.”

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