Toyota Motor Corporation boss Akio Toyoda has said the company’s Australian manufacturing operations needs to “aim at achieving sustainable growth” if it is to remain viable.
Speaking at a pre-Tokyo motor show dinner, Toyoda-san (below) appeared to back the path set by local executives to push suppliers to increase productivity and lower manufacturing costs by $3800 per car built by 2018. He did, however, also push the case to grow the manufacturing output, rather than just maintain it.
“We have a very long history in operating in Australia,” the global boss began. “So going forward, working closely with our suppliers in Australia, we would like to aim at achieving sustainable growth. In terms of competitiveness, that is achieved by ourselves working closely together with suppliers.”
That growth target would require the re-signing of a deal with the Middle East to export the next-generation Camry from 2016 instead of deflecting production to Thailand, where the medium sedan is built more affordably.
Toyoda’s growth target would potentially also need to boost exports to cover falling domestic popularity – Camry sales are down 7.6 per cent to October 2013, while the V6-engined Aurion has fallen 23.8 per cent.
It was a position backed by Toyota executive vice president Nobuyori Kodaira, who agreed that the current situation for the local manufacturing operations is “difficult”.
“For Toyota in Australia, in order to continue manufacturing there we are cooperating with our supplies on activities such as rationalisation [and] cost reduction,” explained Kodaira-san. “We think those measures are necessary and those efforts have already been started.
“I can’t give you any concrete figures but with the cooperation between the Toyota plant in Australia, and the cooperation with the suppliers, we are making efforts with expectations that in a few years we will be able to make improvements with the current situation.”
The ‘few years’ the executive vice president nominates is seen as a deadline for when the Camry will switch to a new generation. If Toyota Australia can’t improve efficiencies with the next generation, then the company may follow Ford with a closure announcement before 2016.