(Repeat story published on Friday)
By Sonali Paul and Jonathan Barrett
MELBOURNE/SYDNEY Oct 7 The last Australian-made
six-cylinder Ford Falcon rolled off an assembly line on
Friday, marking the end of Ford's 91-year history of car-making
in a country that simultaneously fell out of love with big cars
The end of operations - to be mirrored by GM Holden
and Toyota Australia next year - coincides with a move
by the famed car company to close in Japan and Indonesia, where
it sees "no reasonable path to profitability".
The impending death of car manufacturing in Australia has
sparked heated debate over the future of the economy and the
role of government in propping up ailing sectors, after the
governing centre-right coalition cut subsidies to the sector.
Dave Smith, national vehicle division secretary of the
Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, said the Ford workers
"handled themselves with magnificent dignity" on their last day.
"It's a shame for Australia because I think we lose so much
when we no longer have vehicle manufacturing. But, you know,
that's part of history now," Smith told journalists at the Ford
factory in the Melbourne suburb of Broadmeadows.
About 600 Ford workers are losing their jobs on Friday, all
in the state of Victoria, where Ford's Australian operations are
headquartered. Separately, 160 Ford manufacturing employees are
being redeployed to design and engineering roles with the
Ford Australia chief executive Graeme Whickman said while it
was a difficult day, it was an honour to see the last Falcon XR6
produced. He said the last manufactured cars would be put on
show rather than sold privately.
END OF AN ERA
The decline of Australia's manufacturing industry -
employment in the sector out of total employment dropped from
13.4 percent in 2005 to 7.8 percent last year - has not been
helped by changing tastes as motorists turn against the locally
made, big passenger cars Ford and Holden are traditionally known
for, for overseas-made small cars and sports utilities.
Car manufacturers started making decisions to close down
Australian operations in 2013 when the Australian dollar was
above parity against the U.S. dollar, making local manufacturing
Retired Ford dealer Martin van Koldenhoven, from rural
Western Australia, told Reuters the car-maker dominated sales in
the 1980s with its sedans and "utes", or utility vehicles, but
then fell behind when buying trends changed.
"Be it light commercial or four-wheel-drives or small cars,
they seemed to be a step behind," van Koldenhoven said.
"The market shifted and Ford didn't shift fast enough. It's
a sad day - perhaps I'll fly my Ford flag at half-mast."
Even though Australian car enthusiasts grew up watching Ford
battle Holden at the Bathurst 1000 touring car race in New South
Wales, and both car-makers have large supporter networks, that
has not translated into sales.
Both brands trail Toyota, Mazda and Hyundai, according to
September sales data for the Federal Chamber of Automotive
Paddy Boylan was among a handful of Ford fans who drove more
than 400 km (250 miles) to Melbourne to pay respects.
"We came to pay homage as humble pilgrims," said Boylan, who
drove up in a 1962 XK Ford that he bought 18 months ago. "I've
just always loved Falcons, and it's the end of an era."
($1 = 1.3191 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Jonathan Barrett in SYDNEY and Sonali Paul in
MELBOURNE; Editing by Robert Birsel)