ToMoCo's "$35m Photo Opportunity for the [Australian] Prime Minister"
Toyota recently declared that it would begin building Camry Hybrids in Melbourne, potentially reversing the industry's decades-long decline. The announcement vindicated the Australian government's half-billion dollar initiative to encourage local production of full-sized eco-friendly cars. PM Kevin Rudd and the Victoria provincial government each cut a $35m check to Toyota in return for its promise to build 10k Camry Hybrids per year. Win-win for all concerned, right? And then Toyota Australia spokesman Mike Breen opened his big mouth. Breen told The Australian an inconvenient truth: Toyota would have built Camry hybrids in Melbourne with or without the taxpayer-funded incentives. This prompted howls of outrage from the opposition, claiming the handout "amounts to nothing more than a $35m photo opportunity for the prime minister." Of course, Toyota has since backpedaled, disingenuously demurring that "Toyota's decision to build a hybrid Camry in Australia was based on various business considerations… however, the Governments' support was a critical factor in securing local production." Ford and GM reps are sure to learn the lesson when they meet with Australian Industry Minister Kim Carr this week; there's still $465m in taxpayer dross to be hustled Down Under.
At a minimum, Toyota could have shopped states for incentives. South Australia has been hard hit by closures of car plants and I am certain they would have loved to have the Toyota plant moved there. Mitsubishi is no longer making their 380s there, and I think Holden is really cutting back. But all things being equal, I think Victoria could have out bid South Australia and won anyhow. On the other hand, Australia us much more centralized than the US. The states don't have as much control as they in the US.
Of course, no one was howling about the outright theft involved in these schemes to begin with, they were just upset the otherside got credit.
Toyota already makes (regular) Camrys in Australia. They will make the hybrids on the existing line. This is how they did it in the US.