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Toyota celebrates 50 years in New Zealand

Written by Media Manager.

In 1966 Toyota made a modest entry into the New Zealand car market, the 50th anniversary of which was marked by the planting of a native Puriri tree at the National Customer Centre in Palmerston North last Friday.

the team at head office 

Although a great deal has evolved, a constant theme remains in Toyota’s business that is as prevalent today as it was 50 years ago.

“Toyota New Zealand entered the New Zealand market with the aim of leading the way to the future of mobility; that remains our mantra 50 years later,” says Alistair Davis, CEO of Toyota New Zealand.

“Recognising the 50 year journey is not only taking a moment to reflect back on the challenges and the triumphs but largely an opportunity to celebrate, motivate and prepare for the next 50 years.”

planting a tree

The ceremonious planting of the native Puriri tree was chosen for its longevity and sustainability with a nod towards the next 50 years of Toyota’s presence in New Zealand.

In its early phases in New Zealand, Toyota assembled a variety of vehicles in New Zealand from the late 1960s through to late 1990s as Completely Knock Down (CKD) vehicle brought in from Japan and assembled at plants Christchurch and Thames including the Corolla, Corona, Crown, Hilux, LiteAce and Hiace, models we still see on our roads today. Toyota led the way with the best quality assembly plants in the country, culminating in winning the NZ Quality Award in 1993.

Local assembly ceased in New Zealand in the late 90s after the Government lifted tariffs on imported vehicles. The Thames plant became the Vehicle Operations facility and a National Customer Service Centre was established in Palmerston North. Toyota New Zealand’s head office, based out of Johnsonville in Wellington, faced major restructuring in the years to come and moved to the Palmerston North site becoming the National Customer Centre.

In the early 2000s, Toyota once again lead the way introducing hybrids to New Zealand.  With sales of 1000-1200 per year, Toyota remains the dominant leader in hybrid sales with a wide variety of Toyota and Lexus product now featuring this key technology for improving motoring sustainability.

In the past year, Toyota New Zealand has achieved market leadership for the 28th consecutive year, at the same time achieving record sales of almost 27,000 vehicles with notable models including the Corolla, Hilux and RAV4.  Both the longevity of leadership and the volume of sales is unprecedented in New Zealand.

“Being market leaders for over half the time we have been operating in NZ is a huge achievement, and the fact that one in four cars on the road is a Toyota, represents a good 50 years work,” said Mr Davis.

Toyota New Zealand has big priorities for the next 50 years with environmental targets, improved safety ambitions and plans to grow and support the best of New Zealand life.

A recent partnership with the Department of Conservation (DOC) has resulted in the launch of a new programme ‘Toyota Kiwi Guardians’ to help families explore New Zealand’s great outdoors and increase Kiwi kids’ connection with nature.

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