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Toyota: Aurion will be "boringly the best"

Ambitious: Toyota chief hopes to push production from 110,000 last year to beyond 200,000.

Toyota Oz wants to build 200,000 cars a year, but admits Aurion is "a bold risk"

8 Mar 2006

TOYOTA Motor Corporation Australia (TMCA) executive chairman John Conomos is aiming to lift Toyota’s vehicle production in Australia to an ambitious annual total of 200,000 vehicles via a third model line at its Altona plant in Melbourne.

However, he has conceded that such an increase – a rise of 60,000 vehicles a year – is predicated on the success of the forthcoming Aurion large car, which by his own admission is "a very bold risk by both TMC and TMCA".

Once in full production, July’s all-new Camry and November’s Aurion are expected to lift annual production at Altona from about 110,000 units last year to 140,000, 24,000 of which will be Aurions.

Mr Conomos told GoAuto last week that the annual production capacity could readily be expanded to 150,000, and his personal ambition was to produce 200,000 vehicles a year with three model lines.

"The plan is for 140,000 with two models lines and we have approval to increase production to 150,000 if pushed," he said.

"But a third model line would make 200,000 possible – that’s my personal goal.

"I think we have the potential, but it requires massive courage and to continuously improve cost, quality and customer satisfaction at the same time, which is almost impossible." Mr Conomos said the need for a third product line was alleviated by Toyota Motor Corporation’s approval to manufacture up to 140,000 vehicles annually from 2006.

He added that a third model would only follow the success of Aurion, which he admits he is nervous about and describes as Toyota’s "last chance with a six-cylinder car".

"Aurion has to be successful and profitable before we can make further decisions. We won (approval to build Aurion) after 15 years but we haven’t sold a car yet." Mr Conomos made it clear that Toyota was far from deciding exactly what form a possible third model would take, but a crossover-type vehicle appears to be the frontrunner.

"At the moment there is no approval for a third model line," he said. "We’ve talked about a crossover but that’s not decided. We don’t know the future trend of SUVs but that’s why we’re studying it very carefully.

"It’s too early to call the future of SUVs, sedans or large cars. Trying to predict that is what every CEO is doing right now.

"Holden tried and failed to build a crossover (Adventra) from its most successful vehicle ever."Mr Conomos said that because exports play a pivotal role, Toyota Australia’s fiercest competitor was not GM Holden or Ford, but Toyota itself.

"TMC decided to produce cars for China themselves, so there will be no Chinese exports (for Aurion). And China’s labour cost is one-nineteenth of ours," he said.

8 center imageLEFT: Toyota Aurion.

"Every day the game changes. A third model line won’t be decided until a business case can be made – when we have a product that meets the requirements of an emerging market not just in Australia, but in Indonesia, the Philippines...

"We couldn’t build a car just for Australia – those days are gone. We first need to understand what our and other markets will want in 10 to 15 years.

"It could be a crossover between a number of things: sportscar, SUV, sedan, hybrid.

"We have to sell cars to fill Altona’s capacity. Our job is to sell cars in a market where everyone’s laying off. So we’re growing and recruiting, but remain circumspect and cautious."Mr Conomos said a hybrid version of the forthcoming Camry would not eventuate.

"The world is clamouring for a Camry hybrid right now, but how many would we sell? Who’ll buy it over a Prius? Can we sustain the volume? We can’t answer those questions and to tool up and gear up suppliers without knowing that ... Sadly, it won’t happen in this generation."Toyota was market leader in Australia last year without a representative in the lucrative but shrinking large-car segment, but Mr Conomos remains cautious about Aurion’s success.

"We take a long-term view that we want to be part of the large-car market. Aurion is the answer to the way we can be part of it. We don’t set out to be a V8 Supercar – we aren’t that arrogant. (But) we’ll be boringly the best."Officially, TMCA hopes to increase total sales from last year’s 202,817 to 250,000 by 2010, including up to 80,000 exports – up from 69,000 last year – as part of TMC’s Global 15 plan, which aims to achieve a 15 per cent world market share.

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