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by Tim Beissmann

Toyota Kluger vehicles sold in Australia will be imported from the US from 2013 after Japanese production of the large SUV ends late next year.

Toyota Motor Sales USA confirmed it would take over exports of the Kluger (known as the Highlander in overseas markets) to Australia and Russia from late 2013, with plans to expand production at its Princeton, Indiana plant by 50,000 units annually.

Toyota will invest US$400 million ($375 million) in the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana (TMMI) facility and employ an extra 400 workers to support the production shift. Kluger models sold in Australia are currently produced at Toyota Japan’s Miyawaka, Fukuoka plant.

Toyota confirmed TMMI would continue to build a hybrid variant of the Kluger after the production shift, but there is no word of a long-awaited diesel model at this stage.

The announcement seemingly puts a dent in any prospects Toyota Australia may have to manufacture the Kluger locally alongside the Camry and Aurion. The popular large SUV shares its platform with the medium-large sedans that are assembled at Toyota’s Altona plant in Melbourne.

Earlier this month, Toyota Australia president and CEO Max Yasuda confirmed he had not ruled out adding a third vehicle line to its local operations, with the Kluger and top-selling small-sized Corolla the two best candidates.

The Kluger was the second highest selling large SUV in Australia in 2011 behind the locally made Ford Territory, with 11,692 Klugers sold across the country.




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