23 July 2019 ·

History of Toyota in Australia

Toyota as we know it is already embedded deep within Japanese history, but did you know that it is also one of the most successful automobile brands here in Australia?


The company’s story started when a Toyota Land Cruiser was imported back in 1958. Two men that were known as the Theiss brothers imported the vehicle in Australia so they can use it on the Snowy Mountains. They learned that it works extremely well here that they decided to start selling the vehicles to the public.


When Toyota found out that the Australians loved it, they started to establish its roots in the country. A year later, the Land Cruisers became the brand’s ambassador and paved the way for more Toyota vehicles to be sold.


Toyota began assembling cars in Melbourne by the year 1963. Its operations were based on the Australian Motor Industries which became later known as the AMI-Toyota factory. The first ever vehicle that they produced was the Toyota Tiara. A year later, the Corona was already being made and Melbourne experienced yet another Toyota assembly line.


When the Toyota Crown came about in 1967, the facility in Melbourne was already too crowded and there was a need for more room. In order to solve this, Port Melbourne was chosen as the site for the next assembly plant by 1968. On that same year, the popular Corolla was also assembled in the country, further extending the line of quality Toyota automobiles in Australia.


The Theiss brothers were still involved in the commercial aspect within the Toyota business and by 1971, had their business officially known as Theiss Toyota dealers. This new company’s commercial leadership was then established eight years later.


The Australian Motor Industries started to outgrow the Toyota assembly and manufacturing side and began exploring engine manufacturing and metal stamping. These two additions started to increase Toyota’s presence in Australia, especially since a rising number of citizens are already being employed to put out Australian-crafted vehicles.


As the technology of that time started to grow, the assembly lines of the company started to lag behind. This was the main reason why Toyota decided to open a state-of-the-art facility in Melbourne known as the Altona plant. The establishment produces more than 500 cars on a daily basis which made it the market leader in Australia by 2003 with a production of 300,000 vehicles for export.


By the year 2014, the loss of the Holden and Ford local operations had forced Toyota Australia to cease manufacturing at Altona in 2017.


Historical Timeline of Toyota in Australia

Early Days

The first Land Cruisers were imported to Australia in 1958 for use on the Snowy Mountains with the first models bought by the public the following year. This also became the first time Toyota has ever sold outside of its country.


The 1960s

Toyota started its car assembly in Melbourne by 1963 with operations based at the Australian Motor Industries (later known as the AMI-Toyota factory. The first ever model that was assembled in Australia was the Toyota Tiara which subsequently, is the first Toyota made outside of Japan.


The Corona, Crown and Corolla were assembled in the following years which happened between 1964 and 1968.


The 1970s

A partnership between Toyota and the Thiess brothers was established with a commercial vehicle business setup agreed upon in 1971. Toyota also started production of engines in the new Altona plant in 1978.


The 1980s

New car body panels started production by 1981 in the Altona plant. In 1987, local manufacture of the Camry started. In 1988, the Toyota Motor Corporation Australia was established as part of its restructuring plans.


The 1990s

 For the first time, Toyota became the overall market leader in Australia in 1991. The company started moving its production to the newer Altona plant between the years 1994 and 1995, halting all production at the Port Melbourne plant. The Toyota Corolla became the first ever model to be created at the Altona plant.


In 1996, Toyota Australia started export of the Camry to the Middle East. A brand new parts distribution centre opens up at the Altona plant in 1999.


The 2000s

The production of the Avalon begins at the Altona plant in the year 2000. The plant is now a regular producer of the Camry and the Avalon.


In 2003, industry record sales of 186,370 cars had been achieved by Toyota Australia. The brand becomes the overall market leader in Australia and remains that way until 2014.


By 2009, Toyota Australia begins the manufacture of the new Camry hybrid model which is the first ever hybrid car to be ever made in Australia.



Toyota Australia announced a loss of $13.2 million after tax for the year of 2011. The CEO and president Max Yasuda stated that the company is beginning to face extreme competition in its market. He further indicates that the company requires recovery from the disasters experienced in Japan at that time.


In 2012, Toyota cut down on 350 jobs, blaming manufacturing costs, the decline in exports and the growing strength of the Australian dollar. Many jobs in the Altona plant were removed.


Twelve ex-Toyota workers began legal action in the Federal Court as they sought to be reinstated in the company. They claim that discrimination was the basis for being sacked from their positions as being union delegates.


A dispute with its workers started regarding the workplace agreements in 2013. The Federal Court decides the Toyota may not continue with its planned changes while urging its workers to accept the changes or risk being shut down.


Toyota Australia celebrated 50 years of car manufacturing in the country in 2013. The company also reached its 1 millionth export milestone and 2 millionth vehicle produced locally.



On February 2014, Toyota announced that it would cease its operations in Australia by the year 2017. This was followed by earlier announcements from Ford and Holden that they will also stop production in the country.


The manufacturing of the Camry, Camry Hybrid and the Aurion will cease locally and Toyota will turn into a sales and distribution company in Australia.