JAPAN: Toyota R&D base for Australia? - report

By just-auto.com editorial team | 25 July 2001

Toyota is considering Australia as the future home of its R&D operations for Asia, based on the country's low wage rates compared with Japan and generous government support, AutoAsia Online reported.

The website said that Japan's top car maker already has design centres in the US and Europe geared toward creating models for their regional markets, but still largely develops cars for Asian markets in Japan.

Toyota Australia carries out a degree of local development and local manufacturing engineering on the Camry and Avalon models it builds for its home market, Australia, New Zealand and the Middle East, but the basic design work is done is Japan and the USA.

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Now, AutoAsia Online said, Australia is a serious contender with officials pointing to a five-year scheme, launched earlier this year by the Australian federal government at a cost of $A2 billion ($US1 billion), that subsidises up to 45% of the costs associated with developing cars to be built overseas.

The officials also cite cheap land, building materials and labour compared with Japan, the website said, adding that it is reckoned that overall R&D costs are about half as much in Australia.

AutoAsia Online said that motor industry analysts also point to the fact that nearly a third of Australia's immigrants are now of Asian origin, making it fairly easy to hire R&D personnel who are familiar with tastes and requirements in the region.

Four years ago, General Motors opened an Asia-Pacific regional design centre in Melbourne, AutoAsia Online said. That facility now employs 160 engineers and designers who develop vehicles for production in China, Thailand and India.

General Motors' Holden subsidiary is, like Toyota Australia, a major exporter of both right and left hand drive built-up cars to New Zealand, the Middle East and Africa and also ships four cylinder petrol engines to GM subsidiaries around the world.

The GM design centre's R&D revenues from overseas stood at $A80 million last year, up 30%, AutoAsia Online said.

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