Sun sets on Ford's Australian manufacturing business

Sun Oct 9, 2016 4:31pm EDT
 
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By Sonali Paul and Jonathan Barrett

MELBOURNE/SYDNEY (Reuters) - The last Australian-made six-cylinder Ford (F.N: Quote) 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 and manufacturing.

The end of operations - to be mirrored by GM Holden (GM.N: Quote) and Toyota (7203.T: Quote) 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 center-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 company.

Ford Australia chief executive Graeme Whickman said while it was a difficult day, it was an honor to see the last Falcon XR6 produced. He said the last manufactured cars would be put on show rather than sold privately.

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Nick Doria, a worker at the Ford Motor company's Broadmeadows Assembly Plant, holds a flag as he leaves the factory with a fellow worker before it closes in the Melbourne suburb of Campbellfield, Australia, October 7, 2016.     AAP/Julian Smith/via REUTERS