Toyota, Honda close facilities; Denso and others focus on EVs


Amidst a shrinking car market in Australia, Japanese car maker Toyota Motor Corp recently shut down its Altona, Melbourne plant, leaving almost 2,500 workers out of jobs. Toyota was Australia’s biggest vehicle producer over the past decade, and its Australian plant was also its first overseas production facility, having set up its Camry plant almost 54 years ago in the country.

Two other major car makers, local brand Holden, will also close its Adelaide plant by 20 October, leaving around 900 workers without jobs; while Ford had closed its last two facilities last year.

With the closure of the Holden plant, it will mean the end of an era of car manufacturing in Australia. The 1950s-70s were boom times for Holden, when it exported cars to Asia and not the other way around. But it became more difficult for Holden and other car makers to keep up with rising costs.

The combination of the high Australian dollar; high wages; import barriers that were eventually scrapped from big car making countries such as the US, Japan, Thailand and South Korea; and slackening government subsidies, the car manufacturing sector in Australia has seen an early demise.

Honda shuts Japanese plant; turns focus to EVs


Elsewhere, another Japanese car maker Honda is planning to close its 250,000-unit capacity Sayama plant in Japan, one of the company’s oldest plants, by end of 2022, and this would result to a 24% cut from its annual domestic production to 810,000 units (from the current 1.06 million cars). As reported by Reuters, the company CEO Takahiro Hachigo pointed to the stagnant domestic sales and exports as main reasons behind the plan.

Meanwhile, Honda says it will shift its focus on boosting electric vehicles (EVs) as well as smart technologies in light stringent emissions regulations on vehicles.

Honda will be producing EV’s and other vehicle models from its 250,000-unit capacity Yorii plant. By 2019, the company is also opening a plant in China. The shift of production would improve Honda’s factory utilisation rates in Japan, at the same time, it will enable it to hit its target of two-thirds of global sales from EVs by 2030.

It has also set up a division solely to developing EVs. Honda’s foray into EVs kicked off recently with an electric urban concept car, Urban EV, that will be production ready by 2019, with a new Sport EV concept to be introduced in a forthcoming motor show in Tokyo.

Pairing to boost EV production


Toyota, for its part, will boost its sales by developing EVs for its key markets that include China, Europe and the US. It is also partnering with car maker Mazda, and auto parts supplier Denso to jointly develop basic structural technologies for EVs.

Located at Toyota’s Midland Square office, the JPY 10 million - joint venture company, EV Common Architecture (CA) Spirit, will be developing EV technologies and components for use in segments ranging from mini-vehicles and SUVs to light trucks.

The partnership came about amid the necessity to develop EVs with lower emissions, and to allay the high manufacturing investments, partly due to the expensive batteries.

“As countries and regions around the world adopt increasingly stringent policies to help reduce greenhouse gases, new regulations that mandate a certain proportion of electric vehicle sales are beginning to emerge. Complying with these environmental regulations, while ensuring the sustainable growth of our companies, requires the development of a wide range of powertrains and technologies. We regard electric vehicles EVs as a key technological field in this process alongside fuel cell vehicles,” the partners stated in a press release.

Toyota will hold a 90% stake in EV CA Spirit, while Mazda and Denso will each hold 5% stakes. Meanwhile, Mazda and Toyota would be developing their own EVs outside of the JV. Toyota plans to offer EVs with next generation solid-state batteries by 2020, while Mazda is launching its own hybrid vehicle in 2019. Mazda, which said that it will continue to make combustion engine vehicles, is also planning to produce more cars with EV technology by 2035.

Denso invests in US plant for EV technologies


Denso, likewise, is on an EV spree, and has invested US$1 billion into its Maryville, Tennessee facility in the US to manufacture EV technologies. The expansion is also expected to create 1,000 new jobs at the said facility.

The Japanese auto parts supplier’s fresh investment will expand multiple production lines to produce advanced safety, connectivity, and electrification products for hybrid and electric vehicles.

These products are aimed to improve fuel efficiency of vehicles and preserve electric power by recovering and recycling energy, and by connecting all systems and products inside the vehicles, Denso said.

Additionally, the technologies will create “the highest efficiency for a whole vehicle” by anticipating the road environment via collaboration with information outside the car and using data to enhance performance of electrified products, according to Denso.


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