Exports behind Toyota job slash

23 January 2012
, CarsGuide
Exports behind Toyota job slash

But the reason behind the move at Big T - which looked the strongest of Australia's three local carmakers just a year ago - is simple: exports.

There was a time, with booming sales in the Middle East and a weak Australian dollar, that Toyota Australia was minting money off the exports of its locally-made Camry.

Exports also provided the critical mass for local production, even with Camry and Aurion twins that struggled to approach the local success of the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon. Altona really needs to crank out more than 100,000 cars a year to stay in the black.

Now, with sluggish demand and a strong dollar, the export strategy is a loser and the reason why production at the Altona factory has fallen from a high of 148,931 cars in 2007 to around 94,000 last year.

The best export year was 2008 with 101,688 cars, but that number also fell dramatically to around 60,000 last year. Toyota Australia is reluctant to provide forecasts for 2012 or beyond, but it's a fair bet that it will have to adjust its local production - even with an all-new Camry and Aurion coming on stream this year.

It could top 35,000 local deliveries this year but a slow recovery in the Middle East from the global financial crisis means there are no guarantees. And that's the key, as both Ford and Holden have shown in recent times.

It took $103 million from Detroit and Canberra to give the Broadmeadows-built Falcon a future to 2016 while Holden has a long- term commitment to local manufacturing but is still looking for a guaranteed future for the Commodore in the run-up to 2012.

Toyota has provided some certainty with a $350 million investment in a Melbourne engine factory that starts production late this year of the 2.4-litre engine used in both the Camry and Camry Hybrid.

Even so, it is working hard to balance the books at a time when every outpost of every major carmaker is under tight scrutiny and expected to pay its way.