NZ’s last Aussie-built Toyota revealed

The final new vehicle to be built in Australia has had its media reveal.

The car is the Toyota Camry sedan, which is being built at Toyota Australia’s assembly plant at Altona near Melbourne, and will be launched in New Zealand in July.

This Camry will be the final brand-new vehicle to emerge from any of Australia’s three remaining car plants before assembly operations begin to close down for good from next year.

Holden and Ford will end Australian assembly of their product next year, followed by Toyota which is scheduled to close Altona towards the end of 2017. When that happens, it will mark the end of decades of motor vehicle assembly operations in Australasia. New Zealand’s factories shut down in the late 1990s, and soon it will be Australia’s turn.

All this has meant this week’s Camry reveal is a bitter-sweet time for Toyota New Zealand’s general manager of sales Steve Prangnell – because the Australian situation will be the third time he has been involved in the closure of a Toyota assembly plant.

Prangnell has been a TNZ employee for 32 years, and it all began when he got a job at the Toyota assembly plant in Christchurch.

That operation was closed down in 1994 when Toyota centralised all its assembly operations to its Thames plant. By that time Prangnell had moved up the corporate ladder and was national supply manager at head office in Johnsonville, responsible for the importation of the CKD (completely knocked-down) components for Thames.

In 1997 the Thames assembly operation was closed as well, meaning TNZ had to begin sourcing its vehicles from Toyota plants in other countries, including Australia. These days the four cylinder Camry and its V6 sibling, the Aurion, come from Altona, with other product coming from Japan, Thailand, Europe and USA.

Prangnell says he is not looking forward to the closure of Altona because it will mean Toyota operations in both New Zealand and Australia will be less the authors of their own destinies.

“I don’t think we will be able to have the same influence as we have now on such things as suspension settings and vehicle specification,” he says.

“Not only that, but the people who work at our Signature Class used vehicle operation at the former Thames assembly plant work very closely with the people at Altona on such things as systems training. All that will go, too.”

Prangnell says he feels for the people at Toyota Australia, especially those at Altona, but he admires their resolve to make the new Camry the best Toyota ever to be built in Aussie.

“We did the same in New Zealand. When we finished building cars at Thames our vehicle defect ratio was just .02 per cent, which was world-class. The product out of Altona is now of a similar quality.”

Seven Camry models – four petrol and three hybrids – will be launched in New Zealand.

The petrol models will all be powered by the same 2.5-litre petrol engine, and will come with GL, Atara, Atara S and Atara SX levels of specification. The GL will offer 133 kilowatts of power and 231 Newton metres of torque, while the others will offer slightly higher 135 kW and 235 Nm because they have twin exhausts.

Meanwhile the hybrid models, which will all offer a total system output of 151 kW, will come with GL, Atara S and Atara SL levels of specification.

No prices for the new Camrys have yet been announced.

While the new Camry’s interior looks similar to that of the current model, there are new trims and specification has been improved. The exterior has undergone major change, with the roof being the only external panel to remain untouched. It now has a much leaner and athletic appearance.

A tour through the Victorian countryside also proved this latest medium-sized Toyota sedan to be a much improved drive.

This new Camry will compete in a market segment that is shrinking in size as a consequence of motorists opting for SUVs and smaller hatchbacks, but it is still an important part of Toyota NZ’s business.

Prangnell says 52,000 Camrys have been sold in New Zealand since the first model was launched in 1987, including more than 1000 last year.

“The goal with this new model has been to broaden the appeal of Camry. That’s why we have expanded the model mix with the addition of an extra grade in the hybrid lineup. That’s also why this is boldest Camry ever – expressive, athletic, confident and refined.”

News By : Stuff

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