Toyota has announced the closure of its São Bernardo Plant in São Paulo, Brazil, a site with over six decades of automotive manufacturing history. This closure not only marks the end of an era for Toyota’s first overseas production facility but also heralds a new chapter for one of the plant’s most historic assets – the Komatsu 700-ton press.
The press, with a storied 89-year history, is older than Toyota Motor Corporation itself, having been purchased in 1934 by the Toyoda Automatic Loom Works Automobile Department. Toyota, founded in 1937, has utilized this press extensively, first in Japan’s Aichi Prefecture and later in Brazil.
According to the Toyota Times, the press has been instrumental in Toyota’s manufacturing processes, contributing to the production of parts for various models including the Corolla and Hilux. Even after the discontinuation of the Bandeirante model in Brazil, the press remained a key manufacturing asset.
With the closure of the São Bernardo plant, Toyota has decided to relocate this historic press back to Japan. The press is set to return to its original home at the Honsha Plant, where it will be maintained in a production-capable state. This strategy of “functional conservation,” as described by Toyota Chairman Akio Toyoda, aims to preserve the press’s historical value while keeping it operational.
Masahiro Inoue, Toyota’s CEO for the Latin American and Caribbean Region, highlighted the press’s historical significance in an interview. “It’s unbelievable that a Japanese company made and purchased such a large item before the war,” he noted, speculating on the funding source as being the sale of Toyoda Automatic Loom Works patents to a British company.
The repatriation and continued use of the Komatsu press underscore Toyota’s commitment to honoring its history. The press will not only produce spare parts but also play a crucial role in training new generations of workers in die maintenance and other technical skills.
This move also holds symbolic significance, as the São Bernardo plant was pivotal in Toyota’s global expansion, being the birthplace of the Toyota Production System and the first location where Toyota manufactured vehicles outside of Japan.
In summary, the relocation and repurposing of the Komatsu press represent Toyota’s dedication to preserving its rich heritage while adapting to the evolving demands of the automotive industry.