Toyota's Altona factory builds on design and engineering excellence

Toyota concept cars on display

Craig Duff

Posted December 17, 2021


The new ‘Centre of Excellence' is home to globally recognised design, engineering and validation.

Toyota is back building cars at its Altona factory. This time around, the line is boutique rather than mass-production and focuses on two variants of Australia’s top-selling car, the Toyota HiLux.

The accessories that constitute the HiLux Rogue and HiLux Rugged X are fitted on a production line comprised of 50 staff who form part of the 700 workers at Toyota Australia’s ‘Centre of Excellence', located on the 22-hectare site of its former car plant.

General manager of product planning and development, Rod Ferguson, said the new facilities will enable Toyota Australia to develop products for the local and overseas markets.

“Our design and engineering teams are highly utilised by Toyota affiliates around the world, thanks to their exceptional ability to create products that resonate with customers across the globe,” Mr Ferguson said. 

“The new Toyota Product Centre ensures Toyota’s legacy of locally developed products will continue for decades to come.”

Domestic HiLux production

Known as ‘TCon' for Toyota Construction, the team builds 14 Rogue and 11 Rugged X models every day. All vehicles are subjected to the same quality assurance checks as any of Toyota’s factory-built products, right down to standardized lighting bays.

The parts that constitute the Rogue and Rugged X, were conceived by the 42-member design department and then evaluated by the product development team, both of which operate on the same premises.

The designs are the most striking examples of the facility, given a pantheon of concept and locally designed production vehicles adorn the main entrance. 

The facilities at the $150 million site may be small on a global scale but are cutting-edge when it comes to the technology and methodology applied and ensure the Melbourne complex is one of just 13 global Toyota hubs approved to develop and validate branded genuine accessories.

The most obvious examples of that adorn the LandCruiser 300 in the form of rook racks and bull bars.

The Vehicle Evaluation and Development (VED) team have been working on engineering and testing parts for that vehicle since 2014, with prototype examples sent to Japan to be installed on vehicles undergoing testing at the corporate headquarters, as well as being tested in local situations.

VED Manager Ray Munday said Australia’s diverse geography means the only parameters that can’t be assessed here are extreme cold and extreme altitude. 

“We also have uniquely challenging conditions like varying amplitude corrugations and bulldust, both of which can pose serious challenges for vehicles,” Mr. Munday said.

“When you install extra weight on a vehicle, we have to be able to assess what stresses is that component undergoing and what additional stress is being imparted on the chassis.”

Toyota is back building cars at its Altona factory.
Toyota builds on design and engineering excellence.
The new ‘Centre of Excellence' is home to globally recognised design, engineering and validation.

Exporting local talent 

So successful have our locally developed parts been that they are exported to Europe, New Zealand, and South Africa, with the HiLux Rogue’s remote control-operated tonneau cover, cited as an example of Aussie innovation that has been exported overseas. 

It isn’t just the parts that make the Altona plant unique _ many of the testing tools have been locally developed. 

Toyota Australia Senior Manager Conversions and Accessories, Stephen Castles, highlighted an environmental chamber with an integrated vibration rig. 

“The chamber can vary temperatures from -10 to 120C and the vibration rig has up to 50mm of movement,” Mr. Castles said. 

“That means that over the course of a 10-day testing cycle we can simulate 10 years of average use.” 

As significant as the site is for Toyota Australia, it - much like the Ford complex in Broadmeadows - also represents a domestic opportunity for aspiring automotive design and engineering students.” 

Mr. Ferguson is an enthusiastic supporter of the next generation of talent. 

“There is still scope for our future designers and engineers to have a career in Australia,” Mr. Ferguson said. 

“Facilities like the Toyota Australia Centre of Excellence provide an outlet for that creativity and innovation and Australia has a storied history of developing world-class auto talent.” 

 

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