Toyota Australia invested around $80 million into its plant to produce the new-look Camry here until the end of 2017 — and it had to lobby hard for the privilege.
In fact under different yet entirely tenable circumstances, we might not have seen the 2015 Camry pictured here at all. Instead, you might have seen our model get a much smaller — and significantly less stylish — update to see it through until the next generation.
As reported, the updated Camry, launched this week, is much more than an average mid-cycle upgrade. Rather, every body panel bar the roof is new, giving it an entirely different appearance.
This posed its own set of challenges for Toyota Australia, which is committed to produce the car here for domestic and export markets in Asia and the Middle East through to the end of 2017.
Such wholesale changes required significant work at its Altona plant in Melbourne. As it turns out, this equated to an expenditure of $108 million for two-and-a-half years of production — an equation that was far from certain to come to fruition without persuasion.
Included in this $108 million is $23.6 million from the federal government and a contribution from the Victorian Government.
Speaking with CarAdvice this week, Toyota Australia executive director of sales and marketing Tony Cramb said the company was exhilarated at the challenge of initiating such a significant update — once it secured approval.
“We had to fight to get the car,” Cramb told us. “We actually had approval for this prior to the announcement of closure.”
Toyota announced it would close Altona at the end of 2017 in February of last year, shortly after Ford and Holden made similar announcements.
“We went out fighting to get this major change, the new-look Camry that we’ve been given, we had to secure that, and we were more than happy to invest the funds because it’s a much better vehicle in our view,” Cramb added.
“I remember seeing the early sketches in the US, and we were so excited… we had to pitch the case to get it.”
The alternative would have been the much cheaper option of making the previous version with smaller changes — something that would have been significantly cheaper, and perhaps more immediately tempting given Altona is heading towards closure.
As Cramb put it: "[To] run the current vehicle or do a minor upgrade like you normally would, until the end of the life of the vehicle”.
What sealed the green light to spend the money re-tooling was the export markets. Toyota makes 90,000 vehicles annually, about 70,000 of which go to places such as New Zealand, the Middle East and Thailand. It’s Australia’s biggest vehicle exporter by many multitudes.
“That was of part of the decision, you have to consider all those things in winning the right to actually make it. That’s our core business, we love that stuff,” Cramb told us.
“We had to put a big case together… you think about the volume we generate here — those plants in the States, they're making over 400,000 Camrys a year, here its 90,000, so it’s a borderline decision to invest $108 million at the best of times.”
“Manufacturing is not all about dollars, Toyota looks at that in a very different way,” Cramb added. “But sourcing decisions are very much economic decisions. There’s a business case… we had to work very hard to get that car.”
Read all about the updated Toyota Camry here.