Toyota Australia will decide next year if it is to continue making cars beyond 2018 at its plant near Melbourne.
It says that to stay in business across the ditch it needs to cut roughly NZ$4400 from the cost of every car built at the factory.
Toyota NZ gets its Camry and Aurion range from the same plant, at Altona in Melbourne’s western suburbs.
Now Toyota Australia needs to convince its parent in Tokyo that the plant can compete globally by the time it tools up for the new Camry in 2018.
The Australian manufacturing role of Toyota rival GM Holden is also unclear beyond 2018. Ford Australia has already said it would close its two Melbourne factories in 2016.
If both Toyota and Holden shut up shop Australia in five years’ time will be without a car-making industry for the first time in more than 90 years.
Toyota Australia is Australia’s biggest carmaker and exporter and is expected to build about 104,000 cars this year, 70 per cent of which will go to the Middle East.
But demand from the Gulf states has dropped by about 5000 cars a year, making Toyota’s current production base “unsustainable,” says the company.
It will axe about 100 jobs from its 2500 Altona workforce by the end of next month when production will be cut from 470 cars a day to 431.
Said Toyota Australia president and CEO Max Yasuda: “We are now seeing gaps in our plans that must be closed to secure investment for the next-generation vehicle and to maintain our export programme.”
If HQ in Japan approves Australian production of the new Camry and Aurion, a third model – perhaps the RAV4 – might be added.
Toyota Australia executive vice-president and chief operating officer Dave Buttner said the company had to ensure that it remained focused on its long-term vision for building cars at Altona.
“We must continue to move towards being globally competitive with other Toyota affiliates,” he said.
“But we need to improve our productivity and reduce the cost of each of our locally built vehicles.”