Toyota to manufacture hybrid Camry in Melbourne

June 10th, 2008 - 6:33 pm ICT by IANS  

By Neena Bhandari
Sydney, June 10 (IANS): With rising petrol prices pinching the pockets here as much as elsewhere, Australians will soon have the option of a locally manufactured green car as Toyota begins production of the hybrid Camry at the beginning of 2010. The announcement was made simultaneously by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in Nagoya (Japan) and by Victorian Premier John Brumby in Altona (Victoria) Tuesday.

Toyota’s Altona plant in the state of Victoria will become the regional base for the hybrid petrol-electric Camry with 10,000 cars to be manufactured each year — taking the plant’s total production of cars beyond 150,000 annually.

The Australian Federal Government has given Toyota A$35 million from its A$500 million green car innovation fund to upgrade its production line.

“With car manufacturers moving on a global scale to produce green fuel-efficient cars, it is crucial that the Victorian auto industry secures a slice of this investment which will add $150 million annually to our economy”, said Brumby, who had recently met President of Toyota, Katsuaki Watanabe, in Japan to discuss the prospect of Victoria becoming home to a locally-built hybrid car.

The automotive industry in Victoria is Australia’s largest, employing more than 37,000 people and generating around A$3 billion a year in exports.

The four-cylinder hybrid Camry cars, which are expected to run on about 30 percent less fuel, will be dearer than the existing standard Camry, which starts at about A$30,000 for an automatic. The imported Honda Civic hybrid costs about A$33,000 and the Toyota Prius between A$37,000 and A$47,000.

Toyota exported Australia’s first fully-built vehicles in 1985 and is now the largest exporter of Australian-produced vehicles. Last year 98,000 vehicles valued at A$1.7 billion were exported to more than 20 overseas destinations.

Observing that hybrid cars were only bridging technology towards a greener future, Tourism and Transport Forum National Transport Manager Stewart Prins told the Australian Associated Press (AAP): “Their development is welcome but they are not the long-term answer to the twin challenges of soaring petrol prices and greenhouse gas emissions”.

The announcement comes close on the heels of Holden announcing on Friday that it would stop manufacturing four-cylinder engines in Melbourne. Mitsubishi closed its plant in Adelaide in March; Ford has said it would close its Geelong plant in regional Victoria by 2010 — all leading to thousands of job cuts.

Welcoming Toyota’s decision as a positive for an industry which has been hard hit, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union federal secretary Ian Jones told AAP: “Green manufacturing is very much the way of the future. You can’t see fuel prices the way they are in Australia… and elsewhere in the world and not respond as an industry to it.”

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