Toyota’s specialist tuning and development arm in Australia will be a dramatically smaller operation by the time local production ends in 2017, the company has confirmed.
Opened in 2005 after a two-year buildup, the Toyota Technical Centre Australia (TTC-Au) has played a significant role in global engineering and localised tuning for the world’s number-one carmaker.
But, while Ford has committed to maintaining a global design and development force in Australia, Toyota will follow GM into reducing its local engineering team to a smaller unit focused almost exclusively on tuning imported vehicles for Australian conditions.
Today’s announcement follows the news earlier this year that Toyota will end local manufacturing by the end of 2017, leaving a question mark over the technical centre’s future.
TTC-Au President, Max Gillard, said today that senior executives in Australia and Japan had “worked tirelessly” in exploring options for the local development house, but ultimately concluded that without local production, a long-term future for the centre “is not viable in its current format”.
As a result, there will be staggered redundancies from as early as next year as each major project for Australia and Toyota globally - projects related to the Camry and Aurion - have been completed.
He said that TTC-Au will now work with its 160 employees “to support them during this difficult period”.
“Our immediate priority is to meet with each of our groups to explain the ramifications this decision will have on them and detail the support services that are available,” Mr Gillard said.
It is unclear precisely what steps will be taken to help current workers transition into new roles, or if new positions within the Toyota company will be found.
Toyota said today that it will offer no further comment, confirming only that "the final size, structure, location and remaining functions" will be determined closer to the end of local production in 2017.
The centre’s redundant workers will be among around 27,000 people expected to lose jobs as a result of the end of Australian passenger car manufacturing.
Earlier this month, the Abbott government committed an extra $40 million to its existing $60 million car industry growth fund. A further $55 million will be added by Holden and Toyota, as well as the Victorian and South Australian governments.
The $155 million fund may not be enough, however, with the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union claiming that around $1.5 billion would be needed to properly retrain workers.