[Updated August 19th] Toyota has signed a multi-year contract with ocean forwarder Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL) for the movement of vehicles from Argentina to other west coast ports in South America, as well as those to the north in central American countries.
Vehicles produced at Toyota Argentina’s Zarate plant, which include the Fortuner (or SW4) and Hilux, are being moved by road to the port of Zarate for shipments to 10 other ports. The first shipment of Hilux vehicles left on August 10th for El Callao (Peru). Onward ports include Iquique and San Antonio (in Chile), Manta and San Lorenzo (Ecuador), Balboa (Panama), Caldera (Costa Rica), Corinto (Nicaragua), Acajutla (El Salvador) and Quetzal (Guatemala).
Neither company has yet revealed the schedule or the volumes to be moved but Toyota Argentina expects to increase its output from the Zarate plant by 30% next year by supplying its neighbouring countries.
"This […] represents one more step toward our dream of supplying Latin America manufactured parts and vehicles to our Latin American customers," said Steve St Angelo, chairman of Toyota Argentina and Toyota Motor's CEO for the Latin America and Caribbean Region.
Last year the company exported 70% of its production and became Argentina's largest automotive exporter.
MOL has responded to the new contract by restructuring its existing route between the US east coast and the west coast of South America to connect Europe with the east coast of South America, via the Strait of Magellan. From there the route will round to take in the Pacific coasts of South and Central America.
MOL and Toyota held a joint ceremony earlier this month at the port of Zarate (pictured) to mark the first shipment on the newly inaugurated route. Guests included government officials and representatives from the Zarate terminal operator and stevedoring company, as well as executives from Toyota and MOL.
“MOL's new services will play a key role in meeting robust demand for transport of completed vehicles in this region based on the company's know-how and expertise accumulated in more than 50 years of car carrier operation,” said the company in a statement.
Earlier this year, Toyota completed an $800m expansion of the Zarate plant, adding 110,260 sq.m of new buildings and 80,000 sq.m of logistics yards. It introduced a new parts warehouse with 18,000 sq.m, which the company said would supply any export destination in the region "within hours".
It has also hired an additional 1,000 staff members, bringing its workforce to around 5,000. The carmaker said the plant would now gradually work its way up to a capacity of roughly 140,000 vehicles.