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Toyota's Kluger conundrum

Planning ahead: It is estimated that a minimum three years is needed once approval is given by Toyota Motor Corporation for Kluger local production.

Toyota Australia puts back the possible introduction of a cross-over model

2 Nov 2004

TOYOTA'S timetable for the possible introduction of a cross-over model to its Australian-manufactured line-up has been officially put back to "post-2007".

Toyota Australia executive chairman John Conomos said this was because of the arrival of the ‘global’ Camry four-cylinder in early 2006 and the locally focussed V6 large car Avalon replacement late the same year.

"We are advancing step by step," Mr Conomos said about the prospect of a third model line.

"It is a very complicated situation and it becomes more and more complicated year by year." Mr Conomos also revealed a worldwide fight for engineering resources was not helping Toyota Australia’s struggle to get the third Camry platform-based model line – thought to be a local version of the Kluger (Highlander) which is currently imported.

Twelve months ago, Mr Conomos mooted that 2006 would be the first opportunity for Toyota Australia to build Kluger locally. That’s when the next all-new version of the cross-over wagon is due for global launch.

Now, Mr Conomos’ public statements appear to be getting closer to the 2011 timing for a local Kluger manufacture that other Toyota Australia sources have consistently indicated to GoAuto as the likely introduction date. That timing could well make Toyota the last local manufacturer to build a cross-over here.

By 2011 the Ford Territory wagon will be into its second generation, while Holden’s Adventra replacement will have been on sale since at least 2008.

Mitsubishi Australia's ambition to manufacture the next generation Outlander-Challenger replacement in Adelaide might have been achieved by then as well.

It is estimated that a minimum three years is needed once approval is given by Toyota Motor Corporation for Kluger local production so capacity at its Altona plant can be ramped up to the anticipated 200,000 per annum, the paint shop expanded and – not insignificantly – the car developed.

Mr Conomos said Toyota Australia had won increasing confidence out of Japan, which was helping its campaign to gain the third model line.

"We have again proved we can do it, we can do it reliably, we don’t have industrial relations problems, we can maintain quality of supplies, durability of supply and expertise," he said.

He also pointed to the creation of a Toyota Motor Corporation-owned technical centre in Melbourne as further proof of Australia’s emerging place in the company’s global structure.

But he said Toyota’s drive to be the global product development leader – especially in the emerging field of alternate fuel vehicles – meant finding the engineering resource within the company for a relatively small project like the Australian cross-over was difficult.

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