Toyota switches on new engine plant

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MORE than two years after it was announced amid controversy over federal government handouts, Toyota Australia’s new four-cylinder engine plant has opened at its Altona factory in Melbourne’s west.

The $331 million plant – which was secured with a $63 million federal contribution from the now-defunct Green Car Innovation Fund – will build about 108,000 2.5-litre engines for the locally built Camry and Camry Hybrid, as well as for export to Thailand and Malaysia.

When it was announced in 2010, the government co-contribution handout was criticised in 2010 by opposition industry spokesperson Sophie Mirabella who said the government was “frittering money away”.

Today, prime minister Julia Gillard and Victorian premier Ted Baillieu attended the ceremony at the factory, which was racked by industrial action and forced redundancies earlier this year.

Toyota Australia president and CEO Max Yasuda said the official opening was a proud day for the Australian car industry and testament to the company's “team members” who helped secure the new engine plant investment.

"This is a great day for Toyota Australia,” Mr Yasuda said. “The official opening of the new engine plant is part of our overall mission to transform our operations and build a more sustainable business.

"We are now one of only four countries in the world to produce the AR four cylinder engine and are the first Australian car manufacturer to produce petrol-electric hybrid engines."

The engine plant is expected to have a life of 10 years, which means the current Camry –introduced about a year ago using engines imported from Japan – will almost certainly get a successor in about 2016, securing the future of Toyota Australia manufacturing out beyond 2020.

However, Mr Yasuda hinted that further government contributions might be needed.

"An ongoing partnership between local car makers, the government and suppliers is fundamental for ensuring Australian industry can compete," he said.

Mr Yasuda said the unveiling demonstrated the efforts Toyota was taking to transform its operations to ensure local car manufacturing can maintain its presence in a highly competitive marketplace.

"I am a true believer in local car making. We are working to create a new, stronger business that gives us a competitive advantage that is sustainable and profitable for the future.

“Building a new engine plant in Australia is at the heart of our manufacturing strategy.

"The new engine plant is a significant milestone for Toyota Australia. It enables us to maintain our workforce and further develop our technologies, skills and products so we can continue building engines and cars in Australia for many years to come."

The engine plant will go into full production at 450 engines a day in January after the traditional Christmas break.

It replaces the original engine manufactured facility that was built in 1978 and, until 2011, made 2.4-litre previous generation engines for Camry here and abroad.


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