Mike Stevens | Feb 13, 2012

Australian-delivered versions of the Toyota Kluger will soon be drawn from the carmaker's American plant, with the strong Yen ending Japanese production of the midsized SUV.

Announced this week, Kluger models built in the US - where it is sold as the Highlander - will be sold locally, and exported to Australia and Russia from late 2013.

"This project allows for better utilization of the Indiana plant and will help Toyota capitalize on the improving North American and global auto market," Steve St. Angelo, executive vice president of Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America Inc (TMMI) said.

TMMI boss Norm Bafunno said the shift forms part of the company's localisation plans, building vehicles "where we sell them".

While the Kluger's new US production base is even further from Australia, it moves assembly closer to Russia, a larger market for the Kluger.

2011 toyota kluger australia 06

With the Kluger no longer sold in Japan, the carmaker's localisation strategy rules out Japanese production.

The Kluger is also sold in China, although variants for that model are built locally.

Does this mean that the strong-selling Kluger will someday be built in Australia?

It's not impossible (although it would likely be the next-generation model), and the company's Australian arm has long held plans for a third model in its domestic production schedule, alongside the Camry and Aurion.

While the Kluger was expected to be that third model, this week's news suggests we could instead see a locally-built Corolla in the future. Toyota Australia boss Max Yasuda has made no secret of his push for a third local model.

The Kluger is currently the second-best selling medium SUV in Australia, with its 11,692 sales in 2011 trailing the Ford Territory's 13,866 sales.


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