It was pretty good of Mr Toyoda to travel to Australia to announce the closure of Toyota’s local operations from 2017. And is typical of Japanese company men, both he and Max were very polite and very diplomatic. (I think I have developed a bit of crush on Max.)
But here’s the thing – was Toyota ever a stayer? The company has been really raking in Commonwealth and other government dough in the past few years. And note that the company had a prolonged dispute with the Australian Tax Office over transfer pricing. The company had to pay a large fine and back taxes.
While it is true that Toyota Australia was a significant exporter of cars, it has to be recognised that these export patterns were determined by head office (Ford, by contrast, would not allow its local operation to export) and the scope for transfer pricing probably played a role in these decisions. It is not as if Toyota Australia went out on its own to secure export markets based on price and quality of its products.
And here is another consideration:
A panellist on a current affairs program related an instance many would have missed. Toyota CEO, Akio Toyoda, was giving a luncheon address to a business group, (paraphrased):
“Two years ago we were working so hard to create conditions whereby we could stay in this wonderful country and produce cars.
“We had restructured the business and, despite acceding to recent union demands for even better wages and conditions, we were seeing a dim light flickering at the end of the tunnel.
“We were honest with our employees and had explained the seriousness of the company’s economic plight.
“They had assured us of their cooperation, so we determined to all pull together in a desperate attempt keep the company viable.
“There was an air of camaraderie, a feeling of hope.
“It was Australia Day that week and it fell on a Thursday. On the Friday thirty percent of our workforce didn’t turn up, thirty percent called in sick.
“That’s when I finally realised we were stuffed.”