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Last Australian-made Toyota rolls off production line

2017-10-03 08:51

END OF THE LINE: Toyota closed its manufacturing plant in Melbourne, ending 54 years of production by the Japanese firm in Australia, the first country outside of Japan where the company made cars. Image: Toyota Australia via AP

Sydney, Australia - The last Australian-made Toyota rolled off the production line 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.

Car companies shutting factories in Australia

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 3000 employees at the closure of the Altona plant in Melbourne 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 2600 workers have lost their jobs, although the company has retained 1300 for distribution and sales, as well as research and design.

'Sad day'

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.

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