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Toyota vows to keep car-making until 2017

Target: Warnings from parts-makers that Toyota could leave Australia before 2017 have been scotched by the company.

2015 Camry and Aurion program still in place as Toyota stands by 2017 exit deadline

Toyota logo21 Feb 2014

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

TOYOTA Australia says it remains committed to bringing a final MY15 Camry and Aurion to market next year and that the costs involved in retooling for the upgraded models should ensure it continues building cars here until its manufacturing operations close in 2017.

The parts supply sector warned again this week that the planned closure of Ford in 2016, followed by Toyota and Holden a year later, could be accelerated by the inability of component manufacturers to meet their obligations as the car-making industry winds down.

Pressure is also continuing on the three car manufacturers as motoring interests and politicians call for all import tariffs to be scrapped, arguing that protectionist measures are no longer required.

Toyota Australia executive director of sales and marketing Tony Cramb told GoAuto this week that the company was ploughing on with the forthcoming Camry/Aurion facelift – the result of a $123 million co-investment between Toyota and the federal and Victorian governments – and that it would be “crazy” not to pay back some of the costs involved over the next three years.

“Certainly it is our intention to stay all the way through to the end of 2017,” Mr Cramb said.

“That to us would pay the greatest respect to the people impacted – to the suppliers and the employees – to give them the opportunity to get their lives in order after Toyota, and to give them the training and placement they need in that period.

“We also have a customer group that needs supply. We are going to commit to the ‘Big Minor Change’ (Camry/Aurion facelift) in 2015 and that’s a huge investment.

“We are going to make a massive investment in the tooling in the factory to get ready for that. And it would be crazy to make that investment and then not try to pay back at least some of that between then and the end of 2017.

“We have customers in the Middle East, and customers locally, that we have to supply to. We have a good volume that is secure, so it is definitely our intention to work with every supplier, work with the government, work with the employees and the union, to make it all the way to the end, as our contribution to 50 years of Australian manufacturing.”

Understandably, Toyota vehemently opposes removal of the last vestiges of local car industry protection, with Mr Cramb telling GoAuto this week that the removal of remaining tariffs would be a “nasty blow”.

“I just hope they don’t (abolish tariffs) while we are still manufacturing.

That would be a nasty blow for us, but I don’t think they would do that,” he said.

“Obviously we would go and talk to the government about that sort of decision, but there is plenty of time for them to make that sort of decision – I just hope they don’t do it between now and the end of 2017.”

Mr Cramb added there has been no call for Toyota to pay back some of the government funding it has received over the past few years.

“We haven’t had any pressures along those lines,” he said.

“The one piece of government support we won’t be taking is for co-generation (a proposed electricity-generating system at Altona), so that project won’t proceed. So even though it was secured, there will be no money transacted and we certainly won’t be taking that.

“We haven’t really got any funding that hasn’t been invested into what we said we were going to invest into anyway.”

Mr Cramb added that while Toyota is still working out all the details of its Australian manufacturing exit strategy, the company was focused on maintaining a viable sales and production volume of its locally produced cars.

“We have to work out what’s right for Toyota, and we have to do things the Toyota way, and we have to do it with the greatest respect to all of our partners and the people involved,” he said.

“And we’ll have to work with GM and Ford to make it orderly, to make sure it all happens appropriately, working with the government, suppliers and staff. It is going to be a long three years.

“(But) in the interim now we still have a business to run. Between now and when manufacturing ends in 2017 the business is still the same.

“So we need all the people that we’ve currently got, to do all the volume that we currently build, and hopefully sell more cars than we currently sell.

“So there is no change at least until then.”

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