Australian Motor Industries
Fate Bought out by Toyota
Successor Toyota Motor Corporation (Australia)
Founded 1926
Defunct 1987
Headquarters Port Melbourne, Victoria
Industry Automotive

Australian Motor Industries (AMI) was an automobile assembly firm that was significant in the early history of the automobile industry in Australia.

Start of production Edit

The origins of Australian Motor Industries can be traced back to 1926 when J.F. Crosby decided to invest in Eclipse Motors Pty Ltd of Melbourne.[1] In 1929 the company secured the state of Victoria agency for Standard Motor Company's cars, then changed the company name to Talbot and Standard Motors, and began a steady period of expansion with the Standard marque through the 1930s. In 1952 the Crosby family formed a holding company, Standard Motor Products Ltd, in co-operation with the Standard Motor Company of England to assemble cars at their new assembly plant in Port Melbourne. The subsidiary company responsible for vehicle assembly was the Standard Motor Company (Australia) Limited.

Import tariffs on vehicles encouraged the growth of the Australian vehicle body building industry from the early 1920s. The tax concessions varied with the degree of local content.

Changes within the industry saw the consolidation of the principal manufacturers and the demise of the smaller body builders. The Port Melbourne assembly plant was one of many new facilities which were set up to meet the post war demand for new vehicles. By 1955 the assembly complex had expanded to 33 acres (0.13 km2/0.052 sq mi) of land and the new engine assembly plant had a capacity of 100 engines per eight-hour shift.

Standard Motor Products Ltd was unusual in the Australian motor industry because of the high Australian shareholding of the company; 88% in 1952 when the Australian company bought out its English partner.[2] The remaining shares were held by the Standard Motor Company UK. As a sign of the close co-operation between the two companies, Sir John Black was made president of SMP and Arthur F. Crosby remained as chairman. His brother, Clive C. Crosby, became the managing director.

In 1958 the company negotiated an agreement with Daimler-Benz to assemble and distribute Mercedes Benz vehicles in Australia. In recognition of this new agreement the company was renamed Australian Motor Industries and a new subsidiary company was formed to handle the Mercedes Benz franchise.[2]

Through its long association with the Standard Motor Company, AMI also held the franchise for Triumph cars and assembled Ferguson tractors through another subsidiary company of the group, British Farm Equipment. An extensive dealer network throughout NSW and Victoria saw Standard cars and Ferguson tractors sold side by side in country areas. The most popular car sold was the Vanguard model.[1]

Reorganization Edit

By 1960 AMI had also made an agreement with American Motors Corporation (AMC) to assemble their Rambler range of cars from complete knock down (CKD) kits. Another deal with Fiat was planned to replace the Ferguson tractors distributed by BFE. The Standard Motor Company had sold their tractor facility in Coventry to Massey Ferguson and focused on automobile production.

AMI ran into financial trouble during the Australian credit squeeze of 1961 and the company was forced to sell off many assets and vehicle stock to remain solvent. Part of the restructure resulted in the sale of their share in the Mercedes Benz franchise back to the German parent company.

In 1963 the company secured the Australian franchise for Toyota cars and began assembly of the Tiara range. From this point the financial position of the company steadily improved and by 1967 AMI were assembling 32 different models for the Australian market and providing fully imported Toyota Corollas for their dealer network.

Other cars assembled by AMI included the Rambler range from American Motors and Triumph cars from Leyland Motors. Leyland had inherited shares in AMI when it had merged with Standard-Triumph International in 1961. During the early 1960s the foreign share of the automobile motor vehicle market was estimated to be 95%, and as the only sizeable producer with a local equity, AMI continued to manufacture overseas designs.[3]

AMI assembled the Triumph Herald from 1959 to 1966 and produced some unique Australian models.[4] The Triumph 2000/2500 range was assembled in Port Melbourne from 1964 to the mid-1970s.

Operations with AMC Edit

AMI assembled a broad range of AMC cars, all with right-hand drive and carried the Rambler brand name. This meant that Australians could purchase a Rambler Javelin, AMX (a total of 24 were assembled, all with 343 cu in (5.6 L) V8s[5]), Hornet, or Matador long after the Rambler marque was dropped from use on the equivalent U.S.-made models.[6]

Complete knock down kits were shipped from AMC's Kenosha, Wisconsin facility (all knock-down kits to all assembly operations were from Kenosha), but the Australian cars were assembled with a percentage of "local content" to gain tariff concessions. This was done using parts and components (such as seats, carpet, lights, and heaters) from local Australian suppliers. AMI specified what parts were not to be included in the unassembled kits sent by AMC. The door tag on an AMI assembled car has no trim number because AMC did not know in advance how it would be trimmed inside. The color selection was limited in Australia because the bodies were painted at the body plant just like all the bodies going for final assembly at the Kenosha factory. Specific colors had to be ordered by AMI in advance and there was only had a limited supply of each in Australia. The body had the engine, trans, front suspension, and rear axle installed (as well as a few other parts such as door latches), and then was pulled from the line in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Other necessary parts specified by the assembler were boxed and shipped inside the car for assembly at the final destination in Australia. It is unknown exactly how many parts were included to be installed by the assembly operation, that varied with each operation.

From 1971, Australian assembled AMC Matadors were equipped with standard column shift automatic transmissions, power steering, power windows, air conditioning, and an AM radio. The engine in the later years was AMC's 360 cu in (5.9 L) V8. Options included exterior sunvisor, vinyl roof cover, tow hitch, and mud flaps. Registrations for AMC vehicles dropped after 1974. A total of 118 Hornets and 145 Matadors (118 sedans, 27 wagons) were sold during 1974. Registrations for 1975 were 136 Hornets and 118 Matadors (85 sedans 33 wagons). In 1976 there were 88 Matadors (78 sedans, 10 wagons), while 1977 saw just 24 Matador sedans and 3 wagons. Additionally, Matador coupe CKD kits arrived in late-1974, and the assembly of 80 cars began in 1976. One fully assembled AMC Pacer was imported for evaluation purposes.[7]

American Motors cars were assembled in Port Melbourne by AMI up to 1978. The company retained a niche market as the sole U.S. sourced cars available in the Australian marketplace. For example, the Government of New South Wales selected the Rambler Rebel and the Matador as official vehicles in the 1970s.

Toyota and buyout Edit

The first Toyota ever built outside Japan was assembled by AMI in April 1963, the Toyota Tiara.[8] The AMI production of Toyotas expanded in the 1960s to also include the Crown, Corona, and Corolla assembled at AMI's Port Melbourne factory. Toyota Motor Corporation of Japan purchased 10% of outstanding AMI shares.[9] As a fast growing company, took a controlling interest in AMI in 1968 as a contract with the British Leyland ended.[9] Toyota also purchased a 40% share in Thiess Holdings, an importer of light commercial vehicles, which it renamed Thiess Toyota.[10]

Recognizing the majority owner of the company and the products that it manufactured and marketed, AMI renamed itself as AMI Toyota Ltd in 1985. The company continued to be listed on the Australian Stock Exchange with a minority Australian shareholding until 1987, when Toyota moved to acquire the shares held by the remaining shareholders.

The Japanese company then amalgamated the company with its other Australian operations in 1989 to form two arms. Toyota Motor Corporation Australia which was responsible for passenger vehicles and Toyota Motor Sales Australia which was responsible for both Toyota commercial vehicles and Hino trucks.[11]

Toyota vehicle production was transferred from the historic Port Melbourne factory to the company’s new $420 million facility at Altona, Victoria in 1994. In an interesting turn of operations, the Australian facility now exports CKD kits to assembly plants in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

References / sources Edit

  1. 1.0 1.1 (August 1976) Australian Motor Industries golden jubilee 1926-1976. Australian Motor Industries. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 (1983) The Australian encyclopaedia, Volume 7. Grolier Society of Australia, 50. ISBN 9780959660425. 
  3. Arndt, Heinz W. (1972). The Australian economy: a second volume of readings. Cheshire. ISBN 9780701512965. 
  4. "The Triumph 12/50 -- Australian Style". Vintage Triumph Register. Retrieved on 11 March 2011.
  5. huddy55 (27 January 2008). "Aussie AMC Rambler thread". The AMC Forum. Retrieved on 11 March 2011.
  6. "Australian Hornets". (2008). Retrieved on 11 March 2011.
  7. Australian AMC production data: "Aussie AMC Rambler thread". The AMC Forum (2008). Retrieved on 2 January 2011.
  8. "Historic Toyota Port Melbourne Plant Ends Operations (AU)". (5 June 2006). Retrieved on 11 March 2011.
  9. 9.0 9.1 (1971) Chilton's automotive industries, Volume 145. Chilton Publishing, 19. Retrieved on 12 March 2011. 
  10. New Camry is a dinkum Aussie Retrieved: 13 June 2007.
  11. "Toyota Produces Two-Millionth Locally Built Car". (15 April 2004). Retrieved on 11 March 2011.

Further reading Edit

  • Stubbs, Peter C. (1972). The Australian motor industry: a study in protection and growth. Cheshire for the Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, University of Melbourne. 

External links Edit

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