It’s the end of 61-year era today for the Australian-made Fords when the last Falcon rolls off the Broadmeadows production line after nearly 60 years.
It also marks the closure of the Geelong engine plant. Ford says 600 workers will lose their jobs with the closures, while a further 120 will stay on to help decommission the plants, before the sites are sold.
Of the 1,200 workers made redundant, around half have already left or been redeployed in other parts of the company. Even after the entire auto manufacturing industry in Australia shuts down at the end of 2017, Ford will remain the car sector’s largest employer.
It’s a day that’s sparked much soul-searching and political debate over the future of manufacturing and the automotive industry in Australia.
Australian Manufacturing Workers Union secretary Dave Smith said the closure wasn’t just about Ford.
“It’s estimated that for every Ford worker there’s between about four and seven workers out there in the component industries and support industries,” he said.
Ford Australia CEO Graeme Whickman said of the 100 companies that supplied the business, around 60 will live on, and the company’s Victorian legacy includes some of the world’s best development and testing sites for new vehicles.
“Our Australian team lead the global development of the Ranger and Everest at our innovative virtual reality design lab in Broadmeadows, 950ha test track with one of the world’s most advanced wind tunnels outside Geelong and through some of the world’s toughest terrain across the country,” he said.
Ford is the first of the surviving three major manufacturers to cease local production. Holden and Toyota will pull down the shutters next year, with Holden ceasing production of the Cruze at its South Australian plant today as well.
Ford’s final vehicle is a blue XR6 Falcon, and the company is doing its best to sow the seeds of a new beginning from the moment.
The company will keep the absolute final models of the Falcon, Falcon ute and Territory, which won’t have a Government authority number, so they can never be sold or registered. The vehicles will initially be displayed at enthusiast events, then they’ll be loaned to museums in Victoria.
But Ford plans to auction off that last saleable Falcon, ute and Territory to raise funds for robotics programs in two schools in Broadmeadows and Geelong, Hume Central Secondary College and Northern Bay College.
Ford engineers will work with the schools on hubs for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths (STEAM) programs, mentoring teams of students to compete in robotics competitions around the world.
The cars are:
• a kinetic “Ford blue” Falcon XR6 sedan with the company’s most Australian engine;
• a silver Territory Titanium diesel
• Smoke grey Falcon ute XR6 turbo (pre-registered)
Also included in the auction is a winter white Falcon XR6 Sprint – No. 500 of 500 – with the proceeds going to Ford’s longest-standing charity partner, ‘Give Where You Live’, in Geelong.
The “final 4” auction is next Saturday, October 15, and you’ll need to pre-register by 5pm on October 14 to take part. The details are online here.
Ford Australia CEO Graeme Whickman is hoping the cars will fetch up to $500,000 to help the local communities and the next generation.