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GENK, Belgium (Reuters) - Ford Motor Company (F.N) produced the last car at its plant in Genk, Belgium, on Thursday, closing the site which produced some 14 million vehicles over the past 50 years.
The company decided in late 2012 to shut the factory which employed some 4,000 people and to relocate production of new models to Valencia, Spain.
"It seems so unreal. I think I'll only notice after the holidays. It's winter time, you're at home and have no idea what to do. That's when it will hit," said 60-year-old Rudi Beys on his way to one of his final shifts, adding he felt too young to retire.
According to a study carried out by the nearby University of Hasselt, the closure of the plant will cost some 11,800 jobs in the greater region, as suppliers to Ford also have to make cuts.
The final car to roll off the production line on Thursday was set to be a white Galaxy van, which will be emblazoned with the signatures of factory staff and will be donated to a charity.
After the final shift ended at 8:00 a.m. EST, the company will keep a few hundred of its staff over the coming months to dismantle assembly lines.
Following the Genk closure and that of an Opel factory in Antwerp in 2010, Belgium now just has two vehicle assembly plants: Audi in Brussels and Volvo Cars in Ghent.
Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; Editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Mark Potter