Aussie closure unlikely to hit Kiwi Toyota-buyers

MATHEW GROCOTT
Last updated 12:00 12/02/2014

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Jobs at Toyota's Palmerston North headquarters should remain secure despite the motoring giant's decision to no longer make cars in Australia.

An estimated 2500 manufacturing workers will lose their jobs at Toyota's plant in Melbourne when manufacturing ends there in 2017.

Toyota New Zealand chief executive Alastair Davis said a new source for the Camry and Aurion models would be found after 2017 but it was too early to speculate on where those cars might be made.

"We'll be buying future Camrys and Aurions from somewhere else," Mr Davis said.

The company's supply of spare parts, distributed around the country from Palmerston North, would continue to come from Japan and Australia, he said.

Mr Davis said Toyota staff in New Zealand were sympathetic to their colleagues across the Tasman as the company had had job losses here when it stopped assembling vehicles in New Zealand.

In less than 12 months, all three of Australia's car manufacturers - Ford, Holden and now Toyota - have pulled the pin on the local industry.

Palmerston North-based motoring industry writer Richard Bosselman said with the closure of Holden and Ford's Australian operations, the writing had been on the wall for Toyota to follow suit.

"The cost of building cars in Australia doesn't stack up any more," he said.

The closures would have large flow-on effects in Australia, with thousands of workers employed supplying parts to the car manufacturers.

"It has a huge ripple effect through Australia and all those secondary engineering work companies."

Toyota Australia chief Max Yasuda said the company had done everything it could to transform its business.

"But the reality is that there are too many factors beyond our control that make it unviable to build cars in Australia," he said.

With 1392 registrations last year, the Camry led the New Zealand market for four-cylinder sedans and was Toyota NZ's third most important passenger car and sixth strongest model overall.

The Aurion competed directly against the Holden Commodore and the Ford Falcon.

Mr Bosselman said 2017 was the end of the current Camry's model cycle and the new Camry could be sourced after that from any one of four or five Toyota plants, including locations in Japan, Thailand and China.

Whether the Aurion, a V6 model spun off the Camry platform, would continue after 2017 was less clear, with the market for V6 sedans having diminished in recent years.

Buyers instead had been drawn to smaller cars and SUVs and Mr Bosselman said it was possible the Aurion could be discontinued as a line.

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- Manawatu Standard

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