FOLLOWING THE UNVEILING of the Hybrid Camry Concept Vehicle at the Melbourne Motor Show earlier this year, pilot production of the Hybrid Camry has begun at Toyota's Altona assembly plant in Victoria today.
Full-scale production is scheduled to begin in December, with the pilot production phase seeing a small number of Hybrid Camrys produced for the testing of processes, parts and assembly methods.
Toyota Australia expects to build at least 10,000 Hybrid Camrys per year, exporting a further 300 cars to New Zealand.
To mark the occasion, a special ceremony was held with Victorian Premier John Brumby and Federal Industry Minister Senator Kim Carr joining Toyota Australia President Max Yasuda to start the production line.
"The strong support of both the Federal and Victorian Governments was a critical factor in our ability to secure Hybrid Camry for local production," Mr Yasuda said.
"They helped Toyota Australia to make a convincing business case.
"A vital element was the strong desire of both levels of government to introduce new environmentally friendly technology and promote innovation within the Australian automotive industry."
Mr Yasuda said that introducing hybrid technology into Toyota's Australian-based manufacturing program is one of the most significant developments since the company's arrival in Australia 50 years ago.
The Hybrid Camry features the same Hybrid Synergy Drive technology found in the popular Toyota Prius, paired with a conventional four-cylinder petrol engine.
Like the Prius, the Hybrid Camry has been developed to run on either electric power alone, petrol alone, or in a combined mode.
Toyota Australia has installed new equipment into many production processes to accommodate the manufacture and assembly of the Hybrid Camry at Altona.
"Several areas throughout the Altona manufacturing facility are completely new or have been totally reconfigured to accommodate hybrid production," Mr Yasuda said.
"We have re-engineered many of our manufacturing processes to improve ergonomics, specifically for the installation of hybrid components.
"Another key part of our investment in Hybrid Camry is the training of our people to ensure we deeply understand the specific techniques involved in manufacturing a hybrid vehicle."
Engineers and key staff in the Hybrid Camry project were sent to Toyota plants in Japan, Thailand (where a version of the Hybrid Camry is also being built) and the US during the development of the locally-built Hybrid Camry.
The Federal Government has played a part in Toyota Australia's Hybrid Camry project, investing $35 million into the project through the Green Car Innovation Fund. The Victorian Government has likewise contributed $15 million toward the project.