Last Aussie-built Toyota rolls off the production line
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After 54 years of manufacturing in Australia, Toyota this week ended local production, closing its Altona plant near Melbourne.
The Japanese motor giant says the viability of its Australian operation had taken a hit with a flood of imported vehicles and a higher Australian dollar.
Toyota joins Ford, which ended Australian production in October last year, and Holden, which will close its last production facility near Melbourne, later this month.
As manufacturing comes to an end, the number of Toyota employees in Australia will reduce from 3900 to approximately 1300.
The head office will continue to be based in Port Melbourne and most of the Altona manufacturing site will be re-established as a training and product development facility.
"Altona will house our expanded design and engineering capabilities," said Toyota Australia president Dave Buttner.
"Our 150-strong team are in great demand by Toyota affiliates around the globe."
During the closing ceremony Akio Toyoda, global president of Toyota, told staff he regarded Toyota as a family -- and that extended to the local communities where Toyota operated.
"I would like to express my sincere appreciation again to you, our dedicated employees, our suppliers, our customers, the local community and government -- who have all supported Toyota's manufacturing development in Australia," said Toyoda.
Australia had played a prominent role in the emergence of Toyota as a global force.
In the 1950s a local distributor began importing the Land Cruiser cab chassis fitted with locally built bodies.
A decade later Australia was Toyota's largest export market, thanks in large part to the 4x4 Land Cruiser, one of the few vehicles on the market that could handle the harsh Australian outback.
Australia was also the first country outside Japan to produce Toyota cars, starting with the Tiara in 1963 at a factory in Port Melbourne, now the site of the company's corporate headquarters.
In late 1966, Australia was the first destination of Corolla exports from Japan, just one month after the car's launch in Japan. Two years later, Australia became the first country outside Japan to build Corolla. Toyota would go on to produce variants of its Corolla (Nova) and Camry (Apollo) for Holden.
Toyota Crown and Corona models were also produced in Australia.
The Altona plant was opened in July 1994, and built Corolla, Camry and Aurion models.
The Camry and Aurion models were, by far, the most successful models produced in Australia. Total production to October 3, 2017 was 2,117,808 vehicles, plus 50,296 hybrid variants that were built from 2009.
Toyota was the only vehicle manufacture to build hybrid cars in Australia.
Production the Aurion ended in August, and the last Camry Hybrid was built in late September.
During 54 years of production, Toyota Australia built 3,451,115 vehicles.