Blog : A milestone motor – and a tree

Steven Ward


If you’re still coming to terms with MG Motor UK’s admission that it’s no longer going to carry out some final assembly here, then I’ve got a heart-warming story for you. With post-Brexit fears larger than ever, I’ve been eagerly waiting to write this little blog for a few days now.

Just weeks away from its 24th birthday, Toyota’s Burnaston plant in Derby has today celebrated building its four millionth car. In the early hours of Tuesday 11 October, the car in question, an Auris Hybrid, steadily, efficiently and proudly made its way down the production line.

However, this isn’t just a celebration of the Burnaston plant’s output – Toyota’s Deeside engine plant played its part, too. Like all Toyota petrol cars to be built in the UK, the engine was made for it here as well.

Last year, the Deeside engine facility made 239,728 petrol engines while the Burnaston assembly line made 190,161 cars. I was lucky enough to see some of those being built as I spent a day there watching Toyota’s legendary production methods in action.

Like most factory tours, you naturally end up with an affinity for the product. However, with Toyota you instinctively know you won’t end-up regretting the purchase – and that’s not just because everyone wears white gloves while carefully assembling your car.

My other half’s family have owned Toyotas since well before Burnaston was even thought of. They never went wrong (although some were stolen). In fact, they once gave me an Avensis cast-off to use (read destroy). It simply couldn’t be done. Sadly, it could be done all too easily to its MG ZR replacement.

But with the Hybrid cars, you’re getting something truly different. I’ve covered many thousands of miles in Toyota Hybrids. I’ve even bought and sold them. They are interesting in a mature, intellectual way.

You don’t get pleasure from driving them at ten tenths. You get the pleasure in measured, sensible driving. You still have to think about the drive, you still aim for the apices, but you do it in a stealthy, analytical way.

Such driving is rewarding both with regard to (the lack of) points on your licence and the price at the pumps (in more ways than one if you’re used to a filthy diesel). You appreciate the car’s fine ride quality too (just how much of a hand did Dr Alex Moulton have in Toyota’s chassis thinking?).

Mind you, I do have one request for Toyota. Many years ago, Toyota sent me a load of ‘I HEART my Hybrid’ stickers. They were great as they reminded me of those tacky ‘I love Unleaded’ stickers from the early 1990s.

Back then, you could carefully remove the ‘UN’ from leaded to annoy those pesky Greens. This time I stuck the Hybrid sticker to my de-catted and fettled TD5 diesel. Just for a sooty laugh, like.

However, I feel the time is now right for another round of stickers from Toyota. Surely, it’s about time they produced some quality stickers proclaiming their British products are proudly made by some 3,200 employees?

And before anyone has a go at me being all xenophobic and a Little Englander, I got the idea from travelling around France this the summer.

That’s because every Yaris over there carries a full-length sticker across the rear window proudly proclaiming that the supermini was assembled in France – and that everyone involved from build to buy was desperately proud of that.

In these turbulent times, wouldn’t it be nice to say that you’re supporting the home team? After all, if we cannot appreciate what we have, then why should anyone else? I don’t think anyone needs reminding that Toyota have efficient plants all over the globe, all eager to make the next generation Auris and Avensis.

So, with that in mind, you should all rush out and place an order for a one of Burnaston’s finest, right now – except you cannot buy the 4,000,000 Auris as that’s already being dispatched to a loyal customer. All that’s left of that milestone is a newly-planted tree…


Keith Adams


  1. Brilliant writeup, a reminder that even if we lament the loss of homegrown brands, there are still international car manufacturers who see the talent and workmanship of UK manufacturing.

    Though a lot has to be seen how brexit pans out.

    Do they still build the Avensis? Seems to have fallen off the radar entirely, one which I reckon will be taken out back and quietly axed – a quick search speaks of this occuring in 2018 or 2020, probably the former as the model has been on the go since 2009, an absolute epoch in Japanese car model lifetimes.

  2. Very good news from Toyota and well deserved. I often think that it’s Nissan who get most attention as a Japanese owned / UK manufacturer, while Toyota & Honda are less publicised. Nevertheless, they are all producing quality vehicles here in the UK.

    Despite the withdrawal of the UK from the EU, I still think Nissan, Toyota & Honda are here to stay… hope so.

  3. Trouble is Toyotas manufactured in Derby hardly register in UK new car sales figures. German built Focus’s, Golfs and even Audi A3’s sell – rightly or wrongly – massively more units in the UK than the Auris. Most of Toyota UK’s output goes to mainland Europe. If as suggested we are heading for a hard Brexit and WTO trade agreements the economics for Derby and all other car manufacturing facilities in the UK are bound to be questioned. That’s not a remainer whinging, just cold hard facts.

  4. Problem with British built Toyotas is (I work in the trade) that they are no where near as well built as Jap built cars. Rust, reliability flaws, bits falling off etc are common with Derby built Toyotas, not proper Toyotas at all really compared to the Japanese ones…

    • Sorry to hear you say that Steven. I admit I am not a Toyota owner (my Dad did own a ’78 Corolla though), I hadn’t heard about rust & reliability with UK built Toyota’s, but expect they would address these issues.

      I have to say, I think the current Auris Sport Tourer is a decent looking car. If I wanted an Estate car, it would feature on my list.

    • I’ve had three Burnaston built Toyotas from new – 2006 Corolla, 2009 Auris and 2012 Auris.

      Owned each one approx 3.5 years, and aside from a routine service every year, no other problems. Nothing fell off. No reliablity or rust issues – started first time every time, good economy and never had to use the roadside assistance.

      I had one warranty issue on each: the tailgate struts replaced on the Corolla due to one starting to fail; the passenger side retractable cupholder replaced on the 2009 Auris; and, similar to the Corolla, the tailgate struts replaced on the 2012 Auris.

      Just bought another new Toyota, though not a Derby product.

      They still make the Avensis at Burnaston, which was facelifted in the summer of 2015 (diesels now use the 1.6 and 2.0 litre diesels from BMW).

      Visited the British Motor Museum at Gaydon in July – and saw the pristine Toyota Heritage Fleet’s Toyota Carina E (‘Number One’ according to the number plate) there in the service area of the Collection Centre – having just come back from Burnaston.

  5. The Carina E was a popular taxi locally into the noughties and drivers used to praise them for their ability to take a lot of abuse and do well over 100,000 miles without needing any major repairs. A few still choose the Avensis, which seems to have the Carina’s ability to last, but a lot like SEAT people carriers and Skodas, due to the dealers offering them special deals.

    • At my old work we had a Carina II nicknamed The Terminator. It just wouldn’t die, no matter what abuse was thrown at it. It must have been made out of granite.

      • Rural Ireland took to the Carina due to it’s reliability and ability to take all sorts of use and abuse, and the diesel engine.

        About 10 years ago the Carina ‘E’ was a common sight on every road. The modern Avensis not so much, the (Irish market) Corolla saloon seems to have taken the place.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.