Toyota Australia has celebrated the milestone delivery of its 500,000th export vehicle.

The nominated half millionth car, a burgundy Camry Altise, was appropriately delivered to Toyota New Zealand in recognition of a 20-year partnership between the two companies.

The first car exported by Toyota Australia - a Corona wagon - was shipped from Port Melbourne to New Zealand in 1986.

In the two decades since, Toyota Australia has expanded its export programme from a few hundred cars a year to a projected 80,000 this year.

This will be a record for any Australian car maker, beating the previous mark of 68,989 vehicles set by Toyota last year (and ahead of indigenous rival GM Holden, which also exports LHD cars to the Middle East).

The value of Toyota's vehicle exports to Australia's balance of trade in 2006 will be around $A1.6bn.

In 1996, only 20.3% of cars made at the automaker's Altona plant were exported. This year more than 60% will go overseas.

Toyota Australia exports cars to 23 countries, including RHD New Zealand, South Africa and a number of Pacific islands, but most go to the Middle East.

More than 90% of Australian Camry exports are left-hand drive vehicles to Middle East countries including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. The Camry is the top-selling passenger vehicle in Saudi Arabia and a popular choice of taxi drivers in Dubai.

Toyota Australia president Ted Okada said that overseas demand for the Australian-made Camry is still running at record levels, despite the imminent release of an all-new model.

"We are selling as many cars in the Middle East as we can build, so there is plenty of pressure on the plant at Altona to maintain productivity during the changeover for the new model," said Okada.

"Our export success underlines how Toyota's Australian-manufactured vehicles are globally competitive and high quality."