All aboard the Aurion Express

words - Ken Gratton
Toyota's believed to be working on a new generation of the locally-developed 'prestige Camry'

The Toyota Aurion has had a bad year in the local market. But it's doing well on the global stage.

Paul Beranger, Toyota Style Australia's corporate manager of style and design revealed today that the Aurion -- originally an exclusively Australian concept -- is now being manufactured in three Asian countries, as well as Australia.

Beranger, speaking during a presentation concerning the styling of the Camry Hybrid, explained that the Aurion was the first production project undertaken by Toyota Style Australia (TSA), upon the in-house studio's formation in August 2002.

"Since 2002, the work undertaken here in Melbourne supports Toyota vehicles that are manufactured in Australia, the Asia/Pacific region -- and more recently -- globally," said Beranger.

"For example, Aurion was designed by Australians. It's now built in China, Taiwan, Thailand and Australia -- and it's exported from our Altona plant here in Melbourne to more than 20 countries. It's clearly a regional product."

Beranger himself described the Aurion as a 'prestige Camry' in discussion with the Carsales Network, when we approached him in the studio's Port Melbourne headquarters after his presentation.

"The concept was actually Australian. Australia led the planning of that car -- what the Japanese call the 'prestige Camry', what we call the Aurion. It was an Australian plan, which TMCA sold to Japan, to acknowledge the fact that we needed a V6 car -- having been relatively unsuccessful with V6 Camry and V6 Avalon.

"Therefore, this car was important to us, but from an investment point of view we couldn't build two completely different cars. The strategy of what ultimately became Aurion was a TMCA strategy. At that time, Japan looked at that strategy and said: 'that actually makes sense for other countries as well.' We have continued to lead the 'prestige Camry' design."

Beranger believes that the only 'prestige Camry' sold anywhere in the world with a V6 is the Altona-built Aurion. The 'Aurions' built in Asia are powered by 2.0 or 2.4-litre four-cylinder powerplants.

All this suggests that the 'prestige Camry' concept embodied in the Aurion is one that has found favour with Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) in Japan. With manufacture and sales in at least four regional centres -- including Australia -- it's fair to say that the Aurion is here for the long term. So what's the word on a second-generation model?

"There's a strong suggestion that there will be another generation of Aurion..." said Mike Breen, Toyota's Manager for Public Relations, when asked that question. Breen also hinted that Paul Beranger and TSA are already in close liaison with TMC on a new Aurion.

"Paul's group is working flat-out all the time on TMC-related styling exercises... his people are spending a lot of time going to Japan," he said.

Presumably, the Japanese like the Aurion for its appealing point of difference that doesn't cost an arm and a leg to develop and build. That's ultimately a very 'Australian' idea: to innovate with limited resources.

And perhaps that's what makes the Aurion unique in this country; it's a car originally developed for the local market but now exported far and wide -- not just in finished-product form, but as a marketable idea also.

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Published : Monday, 21 December 2009
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