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Toyota ends production in Australia after half-century

Toyota Motor Corp. terminated production at its Altona plant
near Melbourne on Tuesday, ending 54 years of car manufacturing in

The closure, first announced in 2014, comes amid intensified
competition with imported brands due to the strengthening of the
Australian dollar and limited expectations for further growth in the
local market.

Speaking to roughly 3,000 people -- including current and former
employees, and suppliers -- Toyota Australia President Dave Buttner
thanked them for their commitment to the company.

"It is your efforts that have helped Toyota become a byword for
quality, for reliability and for trust wherever you go in Australia,"
Buttner said at a ceremony at the plant.

Toyota Motor President Akio Toyoda, who visited the plant in
August, also paid tribute to the company's Australian employees via a
video message.

The plant closure will result in the reduction of Toyota's
Australian workforce from 3,900 to roughly 1,300.

Australia became Toyota's first overseas manufacturing base in
1963. The Japanese automaker began production at the Altona factory
in 1994.

Toyota's peak annual output in Australia reached around 150,000
vehicles in 2007.

Australia's car manufacturing industry has been in steady
decline in recent years with Ford Motor Co. rolling out its final
vehicle in Australia in October 2016 and GM Holden -- the only
company currently making cars in the country -- ending production
later this month.

The Toyota plant, located in Altona, Victoria, will be converted
into a training and product development facility, while Toyota's
local unit will focus on sales.

"Toyota is the last passenger vehicle manufacturer to close its
doors in Victoria -- this really is the end of an era," Wade Noonan,
minister for industry and employment in the state government of
Victoria, said in a statement. (Oct. 3)