Despite the pandemic, Toyota Argentina has become a success story. During 2020 it managed to keep production and this year it will have manufactured 140,000 Hilux and SW4 models, with a six months waiting list of customers, and negotiations with main offices in Japan for an investment to expand the plant in Zaraté, Buenos Aires province.
However according to the CEO of the Argentine plant, Daniel Herrero, an additional obstacle has emerged, and that is the lack of sufficiently educated young workers. Herrero said the company needs an additional 200 staff, but so far it has been unattainable task because there are not teenagers close to the factory who have completed their secondary studies (high school). The company is promising a bonus equivalent to some US$ 300 for the presentation of successful candidates.
During the pandemic we contracted 500 people to replace absentees, be it for health or age reasons, and now we need an additional 200. But in our geographical area it's not proving easy since we can't find people who have finished their secondary schooling. Some of those who showed up couldn't read a newspaper or understand what they read, admitted Herrero, who points out it represents a great social responsibility 'if we are to have educated people for a prosperous Argentina'.
The expansion plan in Zaraté, 140,000 is the current ceiling, will help increase production of the Hilux and SW4 models, plus a new one Hilux Gazoo Racing at the end of the year, and begin plans to manufacture the HiAce model currently imported directly from Japan. The first phase would be 160,000 units.
We are at the moment the main manufacturer and exporter of the Argentine auto sector, with some 6,500 workers and top production of 140,000 units, and we are asking to increase the number by 20,000, Herrero said during a business lunch at a Buenos Aires Rotary Club.
Toyota took off in Argentina in 2015 with an investment of US$ 800 million but rapidly reached its production ceiling of 140,000 and in 2019, because of demand, plus weekends worked and overtime the number reached was 145,000 units. But as mentioned above, education of future contracts has become the main obstacle.
Herrero who is also president of the Argentine Association of Auto Manufacturers, ADEFA, also referred to the electric or hybrid models. Argentina needs a policy with the common purpose of carbon neutral vehicles. I am aware Congress is considering an Electro-mobility bill which should give us the reliability framework we need to advance, because this path has become globally irreversible, the Toyota CEO explained.
Finally he revealed that autos manufactured in Argentina have a 55% tax component in their sales price, so I imagine there is room, not much, for a subvention to promote cars to combat climate change.