Toyota says it will stop manufacturing cars in Australia by the end of 2017.
The car maker's decision is the third major blow fo the Aussie automotive industry. Before Christmas, Holden said it would cease local manufacturing, also by the end of 2017. And last week, Ford said it would scale back local production by June, with hundreds of reduncancies.
In a statement, the company blames high costs and an unfavourable dollar, "Together with one of the most open and fragmented automotive markets in the world and increased competitiveness due to current and future Free Trade Agreements."
Toyota Australia employs around 4200 staff. The company says 2500 manufacturing jobs will be lost as a plant in the west Melboune suburb of Altona is closed.
The indirect effects of the decision are expected to be far larger. The combined effects of the Toyota, Holden and Ford closures and scale-backs will put pressure on the car parts industry, which employs 18,000 people in Victoria and 6000 in South Australia.
Toyota has been making vehicles in Australia for more than 50 years, and currrently manufactures the Camry, Camry Hybrid and Aurion as well as the production of four cylinder engines across the Tasman.
The company's Australia President and CEO, Max Yasuda, was joined by Toyota Motor Corporation President and CEO, Akio Toyoda, as he made the announcement to employees late this afternoon.
“This is devastating news for all of our employees who have dedicated their lives to the company during the past 50 years,” Mr Yasuda said.
“While we have been undertaking the enormous task of transforming our business during the past two years, our people have joined us on the same journey, which makes it even more difficult to announce this decision
“We did everything that we could to transform our business, but the reality is that there are too many factors beyond our control that make it unviable to build cars in Australia."
Opposition weighs in
Former Australian automotive ambassador Steve Bracks, who was Victorian Premiere 1999 - 2007, said if federal and state governments had worked closely with Toyota its future could have been assured.
The Labor politician blasted Prime Minister Tony Abbott for failing to visit Toyota in the wake of Holden’s announcement it would leave in 2017.
That would have been a show of good faith that would have made a significant impact on Toyota’s assessment of the Australian government’s commitment to manufacturing, Mr Bracks said.
“There hasn’t been a finger lifted to show any interest in Toyota since that decision on Holden,” he said.
“It is a gamble it will have significant dislocation in the Australian economy and particularly in Victoria. This could have been avoided.”