Ford ends manufacturing in Australia after 91 years

Ford Australia - A Ford Falcon race car driven by James Moffat and Alex Davison at the 2012 Bathurst 1000 V8 Supercars race - photo courtesy of Racin Jason.
A Ford Falcon race car driven by James Moffat and Alex Davison at the 2012 Bathurst 1000 V8 Supercars race - photo courtesy of Racin Jason.

October 7, 2016 maked the end of an era for the Australian motor industry as Ford ended 91 years of manufacturing in Australia by closing its Broadmeadow factory.

Around 600 Ford workers from both the Broadmeadows and Geelong assembly plants lost their jobs as the close of its factory doors signalled an end the US automaker’s manufacturing of its trademark cars in Australia.

Ford workers held a special function to farewell the last vehicle made at the Broadmeadows plant; a blue XR6 which was the final vehicle to roll off the assembly line.

The final road-legal Ford Falcon to roll off the production line was sold at auction to Melbourne-based Ford collector Mark Jeffs. for AUD$81,500 (approx £50,000 / USD$62,500). The Falcon, Jeffs told Wheels magazine, would go straight into storage.

The money raised from the auction will be put toward helping Ford engineers work with schools in Broadmeadows and Geelong to either expand or create hubs for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths (STEAM, formerly STEM). These engineers also will continue to mentor and sponsor teams of kids competing around the world in STEAM robotics competitions.

End of an era as Ford Australia shuts up shop

The closure of the Broadmeadow factory signals the end of an era for a significant chapter of car manufacturing in Australia.

Ford was a motoring icon embedded in Australian culture strengthened largely thanks to its presence in the V8 Supercars racing competition and related rivalry with GM-owned Holden. The end of Ford’s Australian manufacturing also signals the end of the iconic Ford Falcon which was a mainstay on Australian roads for over half a century.

Ford Australia has built more than 5.9 million vehicles and sold more than 3.8 million Ford Falcons since 1960.

The end of Ford’s manufacturing in Australia reflects a significant overall downturn in the fate of Australia’s car manufacturing in recent years.

The demise of the local auto-making industry was signified in 2013 when Ford was the first of the big three car makers to close when the company announced 1,200 of its workers would be made redundant.

The 2008 closure of Mitsubishi’s Adelaide plant also foreshadowed the subsequent demise of the Australian car manufacturing industry.

Toyota is set be the last Australian car maker but it too is due to close its doors when the Camry factory in Altona closes its doors in late 2017.

Factory closures likely to have lasting impact

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union secretary Dave Smith said the recent closures of the Ford plants in Broadmeadows and Geelong would indeed have an overarching effect on the entire Australian automative industry, and not just Ford’s operations itself.

“This is not just about Ford, it’s about the automative industry and its 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 told their Broadmeadows and Geelong employees three years ago about their upcoming job losses to give them the best chance to prepare to move on and find other successes in the workplace.

Ford will continue to employ around 2,000 people in Australia comprising about 1,100 designers and engineers, 500 employees in product development and the rest in advertising roles.

Recent sales success flies in the face of closures

In stark contrast to Ford’s recent factory closures and cessation of its manufacturing in Australia, the US automaker had it’s best ever August sales for the Asia Pacific region, surpassing over 1 million sales as its sales rose over 22% in August for the Asia-Pacific region.

Ford sold 126,834 vehicles in the Asia Pacific region in August 2016, up 22% on its sales in the region during August 2015.

The 1 million sales in the Asia Pacific region for August represented a 4.1% total market share in the region, Ford’s highest share ever for any single month.

Ford also confirmed in early September, the hiring of 23 new graduates to fill roles in product development, marketing, sales and service, and finance.

The Ford Graduate 2017 intake will also recruit designers for the first time since reintroducing the Graduate Program in 2015 to join others shaping future vehicles at the Design Centre in Broadmeadows, while others will move into engineering roles across the company’s sprawling Victorian facilities including Asia Pacific Product Development Centre in Broadmeadows, Research and Development Centre in Geelong and Proving Ground in Lara.

“Ford is investing in local creative and technical talent to support our aggressive global product development investments that include key programs such as Ranger and Everest in Australia, says Graeme Whickman, president and CEO, Ford of Australia. “At the same time, we continue building the team leading our local transformation plan, including the launch of 20 new or freshened vehicles by 2020.”