TOYOTA Australia has discreetly ended production of the Aurion V6 sedan six weeks before the Camry factory in Altona will fall silent forever.
The last Aurion V6 rolled off the production line on the outskirts of Melbourne a week ago today, on 17 August 2017, amid little fanfare.
Toyota announced in January the Aurion would end production in August - ahead of Camry - but kept the final date under wraps.
Toyota captured the moment on camera with a group of employees, but staff also posted online their own tributes with hand-made signs.
While the final Fords built at Broadmeadows last year were kept as museum pieces, and Holden auctioned off the final Cruze small car from Elizabeth, the top-of-the-range Toyota Aurion Presara will be sold through the Toyota dealer network.
The car is due to be delivered to Chadstone Toyota in Melbourne where it is expected to be sold to a retail customer.
"It's the lucky last,” says Dean Ward, general manager of Chadstone Toyota. "We're confident it will find a good home.”
The luxury flagship with sunroof, leather seats and LED headlights retails for more than $55,000 drive-away, according to the Toyota website. However, actual transaction prices are understood to be much lower than this figure.
Experts don't expect the last locally-made Toyota V6 to attract a premium given sales of large sedans have been in steady decline as buyers continue to embrace small cars, SUVs and utes.
The Aurion is a variant of the Camry - but fitted with a powerful V6 engine and given a bolder appearance front and rear in an attempt to tackle the once dominant Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore.
However the experiment wasn't as successful as Toyota had hoped.
Toyota has sold fewer than 2000 Aurion V6 sedans in Australia so far this year, versus more than 14,000 Camrys over the same period.
Since going on sale in 2006 Toyota Australia has produced more than 180,000 Aurion V6 sedans, of which 110,000 were sold locally.
The balance of 70,000 cars were exported to Asia and the Middle East and rebadged as an upmarket V6 Camry.
Toyota will continue to sell the Camry when local production ends - as a four-cylinder, a hybrid and a V6 - but the model will be imported from Japan.
Toyota is due to end 54 years of manufacturing in Australia on 3 October 2017, making Holden last to turn out the lights on the local industry when the Elizabeth, South Australia, production line shuts a fortnight later on 20 October 2017.
Australia was the first country outside Japan Toyota manufactured vehicles.
Toyota Australia has produced 3.39 million vehicles to date - more than 2 million of which were made in the Altona factory since it opened in 1995.
By comparison, Ford built 5.9 million vehicles over 91 years and Holden will have built more than 7 million cars over 69 years when it closes its factory gates.
But Toyota has been Australia's biggest vehicle manufacturer for the past 10 years, after it overtook Holden's annual production in 2007.
Despite the shorter manufacturing lifespan, Toyota exported more cars than Holden and Ford, with seven out of every 10 Camrys made in Melbourne shipped to the Middle East since 1996.
Toyota was the first and only Australian car manufacturer to export more than 1 million vehicles - a milestone it passed in 2012 after just 16 years of high volume shipments.
Altona's factory closure will bring to an end $1 billion in annual export orders for Australian made Toyota cars and parts.
Toyota Australia manufacturing history
1963 to 1965: Toyota starts assembling the small Tiara sedan in a Port Melbourne factory that also built British Vanguards, Standards and Triumphs, Mercedes-Benz cars from Germany, and Ramblers from the United States.
1965 to 1987: Toyota Corona
1967 to 1980: Toyota Crown
1968 to 1999: Toyota Corolla
1987 to today: Toyota Camry
1989 to 1996: Toyota builds the Holden Apollo (based on a Camry) and Holden Nova (based on a Corolla) under a federal government plan that forced rival car makers to share models and cut costs.
1989 to 1994: Toyota Camry production continues at Port Melbourne but Corolla assembly moves to a Holden factory in Dandenong while Toyota builds a new facility at Altona.
1995: Toyota car assembly moves to the new factory in Altona but Port Melbourne continues to make parts until 2006.
2000 to 2005: Toyota Avalon
2006: Toyota components stop being built in Port Melbourne.
2006 to today: Toyota Aurion V6
2009 to today: Toyota Camry Hybrid
Toyota Australia export highlights
1986: Toyota Australia makes its first export shipment of cars, a small batch of Toyota Coronas to New Zealand.
1995: Altona factory is commissioned by Prime Minister Paul Keating. Toyota Australia secures an initial $600 million export order to Middle East; the first cars are dispatched in 1996. Toyota Australia continues to export cars to the Middle East until the last day of production in 2017.
2007: The biggest year of production for Toyota in Australia, with 148,931 cars built, of which 97,601 were exported. (Holden's biggest year of production was in 2004, with 165,252 cars built, of which 52,372 were exported).
2008: The biggest export year for Toyota Australia, with 101,741 cars shipped to the Middle East of the 141,467 made locally. (Holden's biggest export year was in 2005, when 60,518 cars were shipped primarily to the US and Middle East).
2012: Toyota becomes the first Australian car manufacturer to export more than 1 million vehicles - in August 2012 - primarily shipped to the Middle East, New Zealand and the South Pacific Islands.
2013: Toyota Australia exports its 1 millionth car to the Middle East in September 2013 - 17 years after the first car was shipped there.
$1 billion: The value of export orders for Australian made Toyota cars and parts each year for the past decade.
This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling
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