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Holden Factory Closes Today

The final curtain is about to come down on Australia's car manufacturing industry with Holden to end production at its assembly plant in Adelaide.

When the last Commodore officially rolls off the line on Friday, it will bring a close to more than 50 years of car building at Elizabeth and Holden's 70 years of vehicle manufacturing in Australia.

After the closure of Ford's production facilities last year and a similar move by Toyota earlier this month, the company will transition to selling only imported models from 2018.

It made the decision to close in 2013 when it was being battered by a high Australian dollar and the coalition government ruled out further financial support to retain local production.

About 950 workers have stayed to the last day to mark the end of an era for Australia's manufacturing sector.

Elizabeth's longest-serving female employee with 40 years service, Lesley Desmond, says it will be a sad time when the plant finally falls quiet.

"This has been a big part of my life. I'm really going to miss it," she said.

"It's going to be a sad day when it closes but we all move on and things change and it is what it is.

"I really feel for some of the people. I only wish everyone knew how well these people work, the skills that they've got and their commitment to Holden."

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union national secretary Dave Smith said the closure of Holden and the demise of the car manufacturing industry did not have to happen.

"These job losses are a direct result of the decision by the federal government to abandon these workers," Mr Smith said.

"We're seeing the terrible human consequences of poor government decisions."

The AMWU estimates 2500 jobs could be lost across Holden and its supplier network when the plant closes but exact numbers are hard to gauge.

Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the generations of Australians who had worked at Holden and in the wider auto industry were to be congratulated.

"They are world-class tradespeople building a world-class product," he said.

But Mr Shorten said the car manufacturing industry did not need to close.

"It closed because of the lazy, negligent, disinterest of the right-wing economic rationalists of the Turnbull and Abbott governments," he said.

"They goaded the industry into going. As a result, Australia is poorer."

Holden communications director Sean Poppitt said the company remained incredibly proud of its workforce and everyone who finished up on Friday would leave with their heads held high.

"We are focused on celebrating with Australia, not commiserating," he said.

Comment has been sought from the federal government.

HOLDEN FACTS AND FIGURES:

* Since the first Holden car in 1948, more than 7.5 million have been produced in Australia

* Holden produced its most cars in a single year in 2005 when 153,026 Commodores were built

* The company achieved its highest market share in 1958 when 50.3 per cent of all new cars sold in Australia were Holdens

* Holden's exports peaked in 2005 when 60,518 cars were shipped overseas to markets including the Middle East, North America and New Zealand

* The company's workforce reached a high of 23,914 in 1964 with workers spread across seven facilities in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia

* The Elizabeth factory in SA built its first car, an HD Holden, in 1965 and its first Commodore, a VC, in 1980

* The plant's highest daily volume came between June 2003 and July 2005, when 780 cars were built across three shifts.

 

HOLDEN'S HISTORY:

1856 - Holden begins as a South Australian saddlery business

1917 - Holden manufactures vehicle bodies

1931 - General Motors buys Holden Motor Body Builders

1948 - The FX, the first Australian-designed car, is released

1951 - Holden's first ute goes on sale

1958 - South Australian manufacturing plant opens at Elizabeth, though it does not assemble its first full car until 1965.

1968 - Kingswood and Monaro enter the market

1969 - Holden makes its first V8 engine

1971 - Holden launches the HQ model. Considered by some to be the best Holden ever

1978 - Commodore replaces Kingswood

1990 - Holden's last Australian boss, John Bagshaw, quits

2003 - Holden opens $400 million V6 engine plant at Port Melbourne, exports to Korea, China and Mexico begin. Toyota takes Holden's position as top-selling car brand

2009 - Parent company, General Motors, files for bankruptcy in the US but survives

2013 - Prime Minister Tony Abbott says the government will reduce support for automotive manufacturers despite appeals for help

2013 - Holden decides to end manufacturing in Australia by 2017. The Holden Commodore is to become a fully imported car

2017 - The company rolls its last car off the assembly line on October 20, ending more than 50 years of car production on the Elizabeth site.

- AAP

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