When it comes to Japanese cars, there is perhaps no brand more legendary than Toyota.
Across the lineup, no other name in the automotive industry conjures up such strong connotations of reliability and dependability.
If you ask the average person on the street what the most reliable brand of car is, they will almost certainly answer Toyota (although the truth is that Lexus – which is Toyota’s luxury sub-brand – is generally considered by experts and studies to be the most reliable car brand).
Part of the reason for this legendary reputation for reliability is owing to Toyota’s being the pinnace of what we perceive as efficient and effective Japanese manufacturing.
Without going into all of the details (we have more info in our article about why Toyota and Lexus cars are so darn reliable) after World War 2, Japanese companies needed to be efficient and resourceful with their manufacturing, owing to scarce resources and a challenging competitive environment.
This led to the development of the “Kaizen” concept (a basic translation of this being continuous improvement) which became the cornerstone of Toyota’s development and production process.
There is much more to it than this simple explanation, but for the purposes of this article all you need to know is that the Kaizen concept helped to make Japanese companies better at manufacturing and producing reliable products, and that Toyota is generally considered to be the best in the business at using Kaizen principles (with some of their own spin on it).
Because of this, Toyota has developed an incredible reputation for reliability – and is one of the most trusted brands in the automotive industry.
Toyota is one of the key reasons people prefer buying Japanese cars over European or American ones.
But are all Toyotas made in Japan?
In this edition of Car Facts, we look at the “where” of Toyota manufacturing. Remember that if you are interested in learning more about the “why” then you can read our guide on why Toyota cars are so reliable here.
Is Every Toyota Car Built In Japan?
You would be forgiven for thinking that a Japanese car company with such a strong reputation for reliability and quality control would do all of its manufacturing in Japan. It might seem like an easier option to do all manufacturing in Japan and then export the finished product overseas.
However, not every Toyota car is built in Japan.
In fact, Toyota builds cars all over the world!
Where Else Does Toyota Make Cars?
Toyota builds cars and components for their cars all over the world. Just about every continent has a Toyota factory!
Here are some of the countries outside of Japan where Toyota manufactures cars:
- The United States of America
- The United Kingdom
- Czech Republic
- South Africa
Wikipedia has an excellent, comprehensive list of Toyota factories here. This covers factory locations where cars are assembled, as well as component production facilities.
One thing to note is that some factories are owned directly by Toyota (or one its subsidiaries like Toyota Motor Europe, which controls European operations). Other factories in some locations manufacture as part of a joint venture, or under licence.
Are All Toyotas For Sale In America Made In America?
No, they are not.
While the majority of Toyotas that you can buy in the United States are made in one of the North American factories, there are some models that are produced in Japan (or elsewhere) and then imported into America for sale.
For example, the ever-popular Toyota 86 is built in Japan. This is due to it being a joint-venture with Subaru, and the car is actually built at Subaru’s Gunma plant.
The legendary Toyota Prius is another car that is available for sale in the United States, but which is only built in two factories in Japan (there was also assembly in China at one point).
Does Toyota Still Make Cars In Australia?
Toyota used to make a number of cars in Australia. In fact, the history of Toyota production in Australia stretches back to the mid 20th Century, when Australian Motor Industries (AMI) began assembling some Toyotas under licence to sell in the Australian market.
Australia was actually the first country to have a Toyota plant built (outside of Japan) and the brand became an integral part of the Australian automotive industry.
In the late 1980s Toyota partnered with Holden to produce a series of rebadged cars (in response to government legislation, a number of Japanese automakers entered joint ventures with Australian car companies to produce badge engineered variants for the local and export markets). For example, you could buy the Toyota Camry as a Holden Apollo.
Australian-based manufacturing of Toyotas continued through the 1990s and into the 2000s, but by the early 2010s the Australian car industry was slowing down and in an inexorable decline.
In 2014, Toyota announced it would cease all manufacturing in Australia, and in 2017 the last car rolled off the production line – a Toyota Camry.
Around 3.5 million Toyota vehicles were manufactured in Australia over the years, with around 1.3 million of those being sent overseas as exports and the remainder sold domestically.
On a side note, Toyota also used to build cars in New Zealand (including at a plant in Sockburn in Christchurch, just down the road from where the Garage Dreams editorial team is based) and also in Thames in the North Island.
Are Japanese-Built Toyotas More Reliable?
One question we have seen asked quite frequently online is where Japanese-made Toyotas are more reliable.
For example, in the North American market it might be possible to buy a Toyota Corolla that is produced in Japan or one that is built domestically (depending on the exact model and trim you are looking to buy).
Some prospective buyers are keen to only purchase a Japanese-manufactured Toyota, as they believe it will be more reliable.
This is one of those scenarios where there is a lot of “anecdata” but little in the way of hard facts.
Some argue that Japanese Toyotas are better built and more reliable owing to superior production processes and parts procurement. There is possibly some truth to this in the earlier days of Toyota production in America (for example, you can find lots of people on Toyota forums and other message boards online who argue that their 1990s/early 2000s Toyotas that were built in Japan are better to ones they have tried that were built in America or elsewhere).
However, as of 2021 the truth is that automakers like Toyota have got an incredibly good grip on ensuring that cars built in overseas factories are produced to a high standard (so high that the average consumer would never notice a difference, unless they took the car to bits and tested individual components, tolerances etc). For example, we have seen people online claim that Volkswagen cars built in Mexico are now as good – if not better – than those built in Germany when it comes to build quality and reliability.
We would have no qualms in buying a Toyota product, regardless of where it was built. Think of it this way; would Toyota (a company whose entire reputation is founded on producing reliable and dependable cars) risk building sub-standard products in overseas factories? Probably not … because if you’re happy to trade off reliability and build quality then there are better cars to buy than a Toyota.
How Do You Tell Where Your Toyota Is Built?
If you’re interested in knowing where your Toyota is built, then you can do this by looking at the VIN number of your car. Think of the VIN as being like a “signature” that contains the information about your car, such as where it was made, the exact model, exterior color etc.
You can find your Toyota VIN in a few different locations:
- On registration documentation supplied when you bought the car (at least if you bought it new)
- Sometimes the VIN number will be on insurance information
- On the certification label on the inside of the driver’s-side door jamb
- On the metal plate located on the driver’s side corner of the dashboard – you can generally view the VIN most easily looking through the dashboard.
For example, here’s the location of the VIN card (the number itself is obfuscated) on a Toyota 86 door jamb:
There are some handy guides online to decoding Toyota VINs, like this one here – so we won’t tread over the same ground that other articles have already done to death.
However, the easiest way to work out where your Toyota was built is to plug in your VIN number into this lookup tool on Toyota’s own website.
Using the example above:
We get the following information about that particular VIN:
Conclusion – Are All Toyotas Made In Japan?
No, not all Toyotas are made in Japan.
While the company is headquartered in Japan, and does produce many vehicles there, Toyota also manufactures in other countries.
The biggest place of manufacturing (outside of Japan) for Toyota is the United States.
However, Toyota also manufactures cars in a number of other countries in Europe, Asia and beyond.
If you are interested in knowing where your Toyota is built, then you can use the VIN number to help you identify the country your Toyota came from.
Wherever your Toyota is built, you are likely to get a car has been made with reliability and longevity in mind.
While Toyotas are rarely the most exciting cars in their respective classes, for those of us who want dependable transport that gets you from A to B in comfort (and gets you there every time) then you can’t go far wrong.