Toyota Australia president and CEO Max Yasuda says the company was “close” to winning the contract to build the next-generation Camry and continue local vehicle production into the next decade.
Fronting the media last night after addressing employees at Toyota’s Altona production plant in the afternoon, Yasuda (pictured below) revealed the final decision to wind up its local manufacturing operations was made only yesterday in a meeting between executives in Melbourne and Toyota headquarters in Japan.
The local boss said an internal study into the viability of next-generation Camry production started last year and concluded two weeks ago narrowly failed to deliver the numbers required to support the continuation of Australian production beyond 2017.
“It was close,” Yasuda said. “It was close, but there are so many factors beyond our control which impact the mid-term and long-term future of manufacturing in this country.”
He confirmed the company was on track with its five-year goal to reduce the cost of production of each vehicle by $3800 by 2018, but even that was not enough to secure its future.
In a letter to employees, Yasuda revealed they would build the facelifted Camry – known internally as “Big Major Change Camry”, and expected to launch next year – before the plant’s 2017 closure.
Toyota Motor Corporation president and CEO Akio Toyoda, who flew to Australia from Japan to deliver the news to workers personally, described the decision as “regretful” and “heartbreaking”.
“On behalf of Toyota, let me express our sincere thanks and great respect for what this country has taught Toyota as the company grew into a global business,” Toyoda said.
“We started production here with the Tiara in 1963. Australia and Toyota have built cars together for over 50 years – that represents over two thirds of Toyota’s 75-year history.
“Over this long period the road was not always smooth, but our people used their skills, knowledge and experiences, they took great pride in their work and they produced high-quality cars day in and day out. All throughout our customers, our suppliers, the state and federal governments, and the local community have kept us feeling at home, helped us grow, and have supported us.”
Toyoda said his company would continue to work hard beyond the closure of its local vehicle assembly plant to make a positive contribution to Australia.
“Although TMCA will change into a sales company, Toyota’s commitment to continue to provide great cars and services to the Australian people – something we have done for 50 years and will do for the next 50 years – will not change. You have my word.”