Oh what a terrible feeling for Toyota employees after the company announced yesterday it will axe 350 jobs from the Altona North factory in Melbourne.

Usually around 80,000 Australian-made Toyotas are exported annually to the Middle East. This year the number will be half that, said Toyota Australia president Max Yasuda. The decline is blamed mainly on the high Aussie dollar plus falling demand.

“The move sparked fears the job losses could snowball through to the parts supply industry, whose viability, and 40,000 jobs, depends on the number of cars made locally,” reported Andrew Heasley in The Age.

The export market has left Toyota too vulnerable, explains Philip King in The Australian:

“The Camry slide looks as terminal as the drop for those other locally made large sedans, the Falcon and Commodore.

The reality is that Toyota would need to add a second model to its factory to get local volumes anywhere near realistic levels; as Holden has done.

A shift to a domestic-only production is unlikely unless Toyota becomes much more competitive. More fundamentally, it would mean a complete about-turn on the very reason why Toyota has a factory here in the first place.”

The government needs to start addressing the high Aussie dollar before it destroys our manufacturing industry, writes Ian Porter in The Age:

“Toyota did not lay off a single person during the GFC, preferring to keep them on reduced hours and other duties.

Yesterday it sacked 350 people.

Message to the Prime Minister: this is serious.”

But what can be done? Porter offers up an idea that’s working in Brazil.

“Its government has introduced a temporary industrial products tax designed to lift the price of imports back to where they would have been in the absence of a rise in the value of the real. It doesn’t help restore export markets, but it does maintain equilibrium in the domestic market, keeping people in work and preserving skills and capabilities that would otherwise disappear, perhaps for ever.”

Manufacturing minister Kim Carr has an op-ed in the Herald Sun about the importance of the Australian car industry and why it needs to be maintained:

“I have little patience with commentators who insist on seeing this country as some kind of automotive backwater. Australia is one of only 13 nations with all the capabilities to take a car from the drawing board to the dealership — and we have sustained that position at a far lower per capita cost than most. Every Australian claims the benefits of the auto sector for less than $18 each. Every American is paying 14 times that sum.

So this is not the moment to be slashing our support, as Mr Abbott would have us do. It is time to prove to the world that this country is ready to make cars for the 21st century.”

If we lose our car industry, we’ll lose the rest of our large style manufacturing as well. But governments need to be smarter about supporting them, argues Terry McCrann in the Herald Sun:

“What we should NOT do is continue with the hopeless unfocused and indeed misfocused half-hearted but very expensive efforts to prop it up.

All this entirely bipartisan stupidity does, is just to put the industry on long-term life support, as life just keeps ebbing away, and costs the taxpayer billions.

Yes, we could have a sustainable local car manufacturing industry. Yes, it would have to be backed by taxpayer money. But first it has to be rational.”

Peter Fray

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