October: the end of Australian auto manufacturing

October marks the end-date of automotive manufacturing in Australia, with Toyota’s announcement in late January that it would close its Altona plant on 3 October, finishing Australian production of its vehicles, and Holden to end manufacturing on 20 October.

The closure of Holden’s Elizabeth plant marks the end of vehicle manufacturing in this country.

Holden estimates that a further 30,000 vehicles will be manufactured in Australia between now and the deadline. Almost 1,000 employees at the company’s Elizabeth plant will be kept on until then. Holden will retain corporate, design and engineering staff beyond 2017.

The announcement comes three years after Holden’s decision, in December 2013, to end its Australian motor vehicle manufacturing, including Holden’s 3.0 litre and 3.6 litre V6 engines.

Toyota’s Altona plant closure will result in the loss of 2,600 jobs. The company will continue operating both AM and PM shifts until the final closure date to ensure it meets the total volume production of 61,000 vehicles for the year, made up of 26,600 domestic and 34,400 exports.

As part of the shutdown process the plant will stop building Aurion vehicles in August, Camry Hybrid vehicles in September and Camry Petrol vehicles in October.

The company will consolidate all its corporate functions in Melbourne by 1 January 2018, closing its Sydney office.

Toyota Australia President, Dave Buttner, reinforced the company’s commitment to supporting employees throughout the transition period and beyond.

“Our priority over the remaining months is to continue to support our employees in every way possible so that they are well prepared for the future,” Mr Buttner said.
“We remain extremely proud of our rich manufacturing history which spans over 50 years. Our employees are committed to producing vehicles of the highest quality as we work towards our goal of ‘last car = best global car’.”
Toyota will import the next Camry from Japan, from where it sources most of its vehicles.

The closure marks the end of 54 years of manufacturing for Toyota in Australia, with 3.39 million vehicles produced locally to date — more than 2 million of which were made in the Altona factory since it opened in 1995.

By comparison, Ford built 5.9 million vehicles over 91 years, and Holden will have built more than 7 million cars over 69 years when it closes its factory gates.

Toyota has been Australia’s largest vehicle manufacturer over the past decade, overtaking Holden’s annual production in 2007.

The announcement means that Holden will be the last manufacturer operating in Australia, until it too ceases production on 20 October.

Japanese brand, Australian heart

Toyota is a Japanese brand, but Australia has played a huge role in the company’s history.

Toyota produced its first car in Australia – the small Tiara sedan – in April 1963 at a site in Port Melbourne. That made Australia the first country outside Japan to build Toyota cars and, from 1978, the first country outside Japan to assemble Toyota engines.

Toyota exported more cars than Holden and Ford, with, since 1996, seven out of every 10 Camrys made in Melbourne shipped to the Middle East.

Toyota was the first and only Australian car manufacturer to export more than one million vehicles — a milestone it passed in 2012 after just 16 years of high volume shipments.

Holden will just fail to reach the one million exports milestone despite operating since 1954.

The Altona factory closure will put a stop to $1 billion in annual export orders for Australian-made Toyota cars and parts.

Toyota Australia had enough domestic and export demand to keep its factory running, but most local parts suppliers could not survive solely on orders for Camry production, forcing the closure.

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