Australia is a unique land full of ancient cultures, breathtaking landscapes and exotic animals that have roamed around for thousands of years. However, like the dinosaur, the country’s proud auto manufacturing heritage is about to become extinct.
Today (tomorrow down under), Ford Motor Co. is shutting down its 57-year-old Broadmeadows assembly line near Adelaide. Until now, the factory cranked out Falcon sedans and Territory sport utility vehicles.
Last week, Ford closed its engine and stamping plants near Melbourne. The 91-year-old Geelong engine plant was in operation since the end of the Model T era.
Not that long ago, Ford operated two other final assembly plants in Australia. The Homebush plant near Sydney closed in 1994, while the Brisbane plant closed in 1998.
Next year, General Motors plans to shutter its assembly plant near Adelaide that produces Holden sedans. Mitsubishi Motors Corp. closed a plant near Adelaide in 2008.
That sure is a lot of negative news for all the fine folks who live in Adelaide. For whatever its worth, I’ve been to Adelaide and it’s a great city!
Toyota Motor Corp. will soon be the only major automaker with a factory in Australia, but not for long. In 2017, it plans to close its 53-year-old assembly plant north of Melbourne, blaming poor economies of scale and the foreign exchange rates (a strong Australian dollar has pushed imported car prices to 30-year lows).
The 22-year-old Altona factory currently produces the Camry sedan. But, its predecessor plant was Toyota’s first overseas assembly facility when it opened in 1963.
More than 1,000 people are losing their jobs as Ford shutters its last Australian assembly line on “Black Friday.”
The auto plant closures mark the end of an era down under. Australians will now buy vehicles imported from Ford, GM and Toyota factories in southeast Asia. Meanwhile, more than 50,000 domestic auto workers will be forced to retire or look for work elsewhere.
I’ve paid particular interest to this sad story, because I have a lot of relatives in Australia. None of them work in the auto industry, but I do have cousins who live in a town called Bathurst that’s legendary for motor racing. The local Mount Panorama road circuit has witnessed many epic battles between Ford and Holden sedans (the fierce rivalry is similar to Ford vs. Chevy in NASCAR).
By the end of next year, Australia will be the only inhabited continent without an auto assembly plant. Why should we care about what happens more than 7,000 miles away on the other side of the world? Because the demise of domestic auto manufacturing was unimaginable in the “land of oz” a decade ago.
It makes me wonder what country will be the next to lose its auto assembly lines. Where will the global auto industry be 10 years from now? Will Canadian plants such as FCA Windsor, Ford Oakville, GM Oshawa and Toyota Cambridge be the next to become extinct? Let’s hope not.