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Beginning of the end for Holden production

Spirit of South Australia: If you laid all the Holden Cruzes produced at the Elizabeth plant bumper to bumper, the line would extend from Melbourne to Hobart.

Holden’s manufacturing exit initiated as final Cruze rolls off the line for charity

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Holden logo7 Oct 2016

HOLDEN has taken its first tangible step on the road to the end of Australian car manufacturing, with the final Cruze rolling off the production line at its factory in Elizabeth, South Australia, this morning.

The demise of the lion-badged small sedan and hatchback marks not just the beginning of the end for all local Holden production – which will be completely shut down by the end of next year – but the end of small-car manufacturing in Australia.

The final Cruze came off the Elizabeth line at around 8:30am this morning, just as Ford was turning off the lights on its entire Australian manufacturing operations in Broadmeadows and Geelong.

An SRI Z-series hatchback was the variant at the back of the Cruze queue, which will be handed over to long-time Holden charity partner The Leukaemia Foundation this afternoon along with the final sedan.

The donated vehicles will be raffled to raise funds for patient transport services and accommodation, with the pair going up for grabs at the organisation’s ‘Light the Night’ event in Adelaide’s Victoria Square this evening.

GM Holden communications director Sean Poppitt told GoAuto that the mood at the Elizabeth factory had been surprisingly positive with about 100 workers assembling to bid farewell to the last Cruze.

“We had a really good send-off for it with a guard of honour and people were in a good mood,” he said.

“There is a lot of pride in the place. Tinged with sadness obviously, but overwhelmingly it was pride in having played a part in history. In a strange way it was quite a nice day.” For the official end-of-the-line ceremony, Holden locked the media out with proceedings “totally kept in-house” as a mark of respect for the impacted employees.

Holden chose the end of Cruze production to coincide with the end of all local Ford production, and while Mr Poppitt acknowledged “there was an element of coincidence” in the decision, he said there were good reasons to align with Ford’s shutdown.

“The primary driver was trying to align supply chain in terms of the total industry,” he said. “From a supply chain point of view it makes a lot of sense to combine it into the same day.” Holden chairman and managing director Mark Bernhard acknowledged the dedication of employees to designing, developing and producing the Cruze.

“Those who were involved in the Cruze project have a strong, and deserved, sense of pride at what was achieved in terms of project development, management, engineering, design and, of course, production,” he said.

Until the end of 2017, the South Australian facility will continue to produce the Commodore, but the company has not indicated if it will progressively switch off model derivatives such as the wagon and utility.

Production of the Australian-designed Cruze hatch started in February 2011 and was joined later the same year by the sedan. In total, 126,255 Cruzes rolled out of the factory, and if lined up nose-to-tail would apparently reach from Melbourne to Hobart.

Mr Bernhard used the milestone to reiterate its strategy to manage the transition from manufacturer to full-line importer.

“Holden’s business is changing and we are building a bright future, but it is equally important to recognise and honour our people and our heritage. We’re incredibly proud of our manufacturing history and our legacy,” he said.

“I want to thank every Holden employee, and all those people in the supply chain, for their personal contribution to our industry and our company.” The company is offering its staff access to a range of support services at a “transition centre” set up at the Elizabeth site to help displaced employees find work after the plant turns out the lights next year.

Each employee is also offered up to $3000 worth of approved training as part of Holden’s $15 million contribution to the government growth fund.

With today’s Cruze shutdown, 270 employees will be out of a job, but Holden says this is a smaller figure than forecast thanks to ongoing demand for the Commodore, allowing more staff to be retained until 2017 when the entire production team will clock off for the last time.

Despite a slowdown in demand and corresponding shift in production, Holden executive manufacturing director Richard Phillips said the quality of Holden vehicles has never been as high.

“The passion and dedication of the manufacturing workforce means they continually raise their quality standards and they are determined that the last cars built at Elizabeth will be the best quality ever,” he said.

Beyond the end of local production, the lion badge will prevail in the form of ongoing design, engineering and development centres. The Port Melbourne studio is one of only two in the world capable of creating concepts from initial sketch to finished rolling model.

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