Automaker Ford shuts its production line in Australia after nearly a decade

Sydney,Oct7:Ford Motor Co. has ended 91 years of car manufacturing in Australia, with the last two Australian car makers due to close their doors next year. Ford Australia said it built the world’s last six-cylinder, rear-wheel drive Falcon XR6 at its Broadmeadows plant in Melbourne on Friday and that 600 employees had lost their jobs.

About 3.5 million Falcons, once Australians’ most popular vehicle, have been built since 1960, but few have been exported. Ford, General Motors Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. announced in 2013 that they were quitting Australia and shedding 6,600 jobs because of high production costs and increasing competition.

Ford president Bob Graziano said approximately 1,200 workers would lose their jobs when the Broadmeadows and Geelong plants were shut down.

He made the announcement in Melbourne, after announcing that the company had lost $141 million over the past financial year — taking losses over the past five years to more than $600 million.

Automotive industry specialists said the decision would have significant ramifications for the wider manufacturing industry.

 Ford became the first of Australia’s big three car makers to switch off the factory lights, after the demise of the local industry was announced in 2013.The final vehicle, a blue XR6 Ford Falcon, rolled off the assembly line around lunchtime at a private event at Broadmeadows. The final car rolls off the production line at Ford in Broadmeadows 7 October 2016

Of the 1,200 redundancies announced in 2013, about half have already left the company or have transitioned into product development and customer service departments.

Ford confirmed about 600 manufacturing workers lost their jobs with the end of production, while another 120 would stay on temporarily for the plant decommissioning process.

Ford worker Jason drives a forklift at the company in the week leading up to its closure.Ford Australia chief executive Graeme Whickman said it was an honour to be in Broadmeadows to watch the last Falcon XR6 come down the line.

He said the company’s legacy would live on despite the end of manufacturing in Australia.

“As the industry transitions, we expect to become the country’s largest auto employer by 2018,” he said.

“We’re moving towards innovation and design and we’ll have over 1,100 researchers and designers working on some pretty cool ideas.”

He said the final few cars would not be for sale and would be put on display.

However, the last saleable cars were due to be auctioned, with proceeds going to schools in Geelong and Broadmeadows.

Ford Australia CEO Graeme Whickman
PHOTO: Ford Australia CEO Graeme Whickman confirmed 600 workers would lose their jobs today. (ABC News)

For the blue-collar workers saying goodbye to their jobs, it was a sombre day, and owners of locally made Falcons will now be driving collector’s items.

Ford fans at Australia’s biggest motoring race may also be left feeling like the air has been let out of their tyres.

The last Ford to be made in Australia coincides with qualifying day at the Bathurst 1000, a tribal battleground between Ford and Holden.

Three-time Bathurst winner and five-time Australian Touring Car champion, Dick Johnson, said it would be a day to remember.

“This is one hell of a sad day I can tell you because a lot of my life has gone with the Ford badge all over me,” he said.

“To see the last Falcon come off the line, and certainly the manufacturing to cease in this country as far as Ford’s concerned, is a real disappointment to me, it really is.

Racing car champion Dick Johnson says Ford's closure is a "real disappointment."
PHOTO: Racing car champion Dick Johnson says Ford’s closure is a “real disappointment”. (ABC News)

“For today to be qualifying for the Bathurst 1000, and to be the last Falcon to roll of the production line, it’s a date we won’t forget that’s for sure, albeit very sad.

“If I could go out, or our team can go out and win this race, what a fitting end to the era of the Falcon in Australia.”