HAVING THOROUGHLY covered the closure of Holden’s local manufacturing, the time has come for us to also bid a fond farewell to Toyota, which ended local manufacturing a couple of days ago.
Toyotas were first seen here as far back as 1958, when the Thiess Brothers imported 13 Landcruisers to use on the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric project.
The following year Thiess retailed its first Landcruiser and the name plate has remained on our motoring landscape ever since.
Australia became Toyota’s first production facility outside Japan and this outpost also has the bragging rights as the first exporter of Toyota Camrys.
Assembly of Toyota cars began at the Port Melbourne factory of Australian Motor Industries (later AMI-Toyota) in 1963 with the Tiara which was joined by the Corona in 1964, the Crown in 1967 and the Corolla the following year.
A decade after the first Landcruiser arrived, the HiLux ute appeared in showrooms and standing the test of time, it is one of Australia’s biggest sellers today.
Toyota’s commercial operation became Thiess Toyota in 1971 and achieved market leadership in 1979.
An engine plant commenced operation in 1978 at a new facility in Altona, which also produced body panels from 1981.
The Corona name was retired in 1987, replaced by the Camry, which became the last Toyota ever made at the Port Melbourne facility.
In 1990 Toyota brought its luxo brand Lexus to Australia as a rival and alternative to the Euro brands.
But there is no doubt that Toyota Australia’s crowning achievement came in 1991 when it knocked off Holden to become the biggest selling brand in the land, a position it still dominates today.
Only 12 months after gaining market leadership, the one-millionth Aussie Toyota rolled off the production line.
Altona geared up for full-scale production commencing in 1994 with the Corolla, followed by the Camry in 1995; in 1996, the first batch of Camrys was exported to the Middle East.
The two-millionth locally-built Toyota rolled off the production line in 2004 and the following year the Altona plant built the world’s 10-millionth Camry.
The final milestone for Toyota Australia and the Altona plant was the production of the first Camry hybrid that continues to this day.
Motorsport and Toyota Australia have gone hand in hand and it was shortly after the brand’s arrival that it found its way to the winner’s circle, taking a one-two class win at Bathurst in 1968 with the Corolla.
And who will ever forget Bathurst 1979 and the debut of Racecam as TV viewers rode alongside Peter Williamson in his Toyota Celica around the daunting Bathurst track?
Look for our in-depth feature on the history of Toyota in Australia and its landmark cars in a coming issue.