MELBOURNE: The last Australian-made Toyota rolled off the production line on Tuesday, ending over five decades of manufacturing by the Japanese firm as the once-booming local car-making industry grinds to a halt.
Toyota announced in 2014 that it would stop making vehicles at its unprofitable Australian plants, joining the country’s other two large automakers — Ford and US giant General Motors’ Holden offshoot.
Ford closed its production line last year and Holden will shutter its only remaining car factory in Adelaide later this month.
All three companies blame the Australian dollar’s strength and an increasingly competitive market for the local sector’s decline.
“Toyota became the top automobile manufacturer in Australia,” Toyota Australia president Dave Buttner told close to 3,000 employees at the closure of the Altona plant in Melbourne on Tuesday.
“The vehicles produced here became a byword for quality and reliability not only in Australia but also in the world as the vehicles were exported to other regions like the Middle East.”
Some 2,600 workers have lost their jobs, although the company has retained 1,300 for distribution and sales, as well as research and design.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said it was a sad day but pointed to new higher-end manufacturing opportunities as a means to help offset the job losses.
“The investment that we’re making in defence, in naval shipbuilding in particular, is going to deliver thousands of advanced manufacturing jobs,” he told reporters.
Australia has been producing cars for almost a century, with the industry employing tens of thousands of workers until its decline over the past decade.
It has struggled with the effects of the high local dollar, squeezing exports and compounding rising production costs.