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The boss of Toyota Australia has pledged his company’s commitment to the local automotive industry at the unveiling of the Japanese car maker’s new petrol and hybrid engine plant in Melbourne.

Toyota Australia president and CEO Max Yasuda described the official opening of the new Altona engine plant as a landmark for the industry and one that was central to the manufacturer’s plan to transform its operations and build a more sustainable business.

“The new engine plant is a significant milestone for Toyota Australia,” Yasuda said. “It enables us to maintain our workforce and further develop our technologies, skills and products so we can continue building engines and cars in Australia for many years to come.

“We are now one of only four countries in the world to produce the AR four cylinder engine and are the first Australian car manufacturer to produce petrol-electric hybrid engines.”

The Altona engine plant is the result of a $330 million co-investment program, which includes $63 million from the Federal Government and additional support from the Victorian Government.

Yasuda praised the governments’ “strong desire” to see more advanced car-making technologies introduced to Australia, encouraging a deepening of the relationship between the two.

“An ongoing partnership between local car makers, the government and suppliers is fundamental for ensuring Australian industry can compete,” he said.

Yasuda’s acknowledgement comes around one week after Holden chairman and managing director Mike Devereux called on the federal government and opposition to settle their differences and agree to support the local automotive industry ahead of what he believes will be a defining year in 2013.

Toyota has officially committed to building cars in Australia until at least 2017, and Yasuda says the construction of a new engine plant is “at the heart of” the company’s local manufacturing strategy.

“I am a true believer in local car making. We are working to create a new, stronger business that gives us a competitive advantage that is sustainable and profitable for the future.”

From the start of full-scale production on January 14, the Altona plant will build around 108,000 2.5-litre four-cylinder engines per year at a rate of 450 per day for its locally produced Toyota Camry and Camry Hybrid models. Standard petrol engines are expected to account for 85 per cent of production, while the hybrid units will make up the remaining 15 per cent. Toyota Australia will export roughly 16,200 engines each year to Malaysia and Thailand, with the remainder to be fitted to vehicles to be sold in domestic and export markets.

The new 2.5-litre engine is more powerful and more fuel efficient than the 2.4-litre engine it replaces. The new Camry uses 11 per cent less fuel than its predecessor while the Camry Hybrid is 13 per cent more efficient – the latter consuming 5.2 litres per 100km on the combined cycle and emitting 121g/km CO2.

The new Altona facility replaces the original engine plant, which became Toyota’s first engine manufacturing plant outside of Japan when it opened in 1978.