History of Toyota in Australia
Toyota has a rich history in Australia dating back to the early 1950s, when several commercial Toyota vehicles were imported on a small scale.
However, things really kicked off for Toyota in 1958 when the Thiess Brothers imported the sturdy and reliable Toyota LandCruiser downunder for the first time, to back up heavy machinery on the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme (a tunnelling project that diverts water through trans-mountain tunnels and power stations.) Eventually, 13 Toyota LandCruisers were working on this site.
The 1960s, Imports and Production
By 1962, Toyota Motor Corporation gave Thiess the job of importing commercial Toyota vehicles downunder, whilst Australian Motor Industries (AMI) looked after passenger cars.
A year later the first Tiara was assembled in a plant in Port Melbourne and history was truly made. In the next few years the Corona, Crown and iconic Corolla models rolled into Australian showrooms. By 1967 there were a whopping 32 Toyota models for the Aussie buyer to choose from.
In 1968, Toyota took a controlling interest in AMI and also purchased a 40% share in Thiess Holdings, the importer of light commercial vehicles, which it renamed Thiess Toyota.
The 1980s, Toyota Australia and beyond
It wasn’t until the 1980s that Toyota acquired the rest of the shares from the last AMI shareholders and merged the company with Toyota Australia to form two divisions, Toyota Motor Corporation Australia – which looks after passenger vehicles – and Toyota Motor Sales Australia to be in charge of commercial vehicles and Hino trucks.
Another milestone for the Toyota brand was the launch of the Camry Series 2 model, which landed on Australian shores in 1987, replacing the Corona. While the Camry Series 2 was a controversial model due to its front wheel drive – rear wheel drive was most common at the time – the vehicle proved critics wrong with solid sales figures.
The 1990s was a significant era for Toyota Australia, with the one-millionth Toyota made on Australian soil produced at Port Melbourne. Two years later in 1994 Toyota moved its production from Port Melbourne to a new plant at Altona in Melbourne, with an incredible capacity to produce 100,000 vehicles a year.
Today there have been over two million Toyota vehicles produced locally, a testament to Toyota’s employees and customers.
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