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Holden's Elizabeth plant closure: We were there

Hundreds of Holden fans paid tribute to Holden by heading to the Elizabeth factory in their Holdens.

The door has closed on Holden’s “fantastic” 69-year journey through almost every Australian garage and across every television set in the nation.

On the day that Holden shuttered production after letting its last car – a Commodore SS-V Redline manual finished fittingly in ‘Red Hot’ paint colour – through the Elizabeth plant in Adelaide, Holden chairman and managing director Mark Bernhard ignored media calls for his appraisal of the loss and instead concentrated on the celebration of the workers and the factory.

He said matters of the past “had been discussed over the last couple of years” and that he would not “delve into history”.

The closure was marked by the last Commodore being witnessed by 1000 of its most recent employees as it completed its final quality checks. Hundreds of well-wishes were meanwhile assembled outside the main administration entrance waiting for the final cavalcade.

In acknowledging the crowd, Mr Bernhard said: “They all have a Holden story, that’s part of what’s great about our brand and we need to keep that as we go into the future.”

Along a kilometre strip of the road alongside Holden’s administration building were about 150 old and new Holdens, many of which also took part in the Dream Cruise held the previous weekend and that attracted more than 25,000 people.

Aside from Mr Bernhard, a factory worker was selected to contribute to the eulogy. Andrew Read (44), a 14-year veteran of the plant and a team leader from the general assembly section of the plant, said the announcement of the plant closure four years ago was “a day that changed our lives”.

“But like Holden, we adapted, we accepted the change and now our future awaits.”

Mr Read, who is completing a Bachelor of Nursing having started the degree on a part-time basis, said it was a sad day for himself, for Holden and for South Australia.

“But we walk out of here with our heads held high, full of pride and passion for the company, knowing we can build a world-class recognised car,” he said.

“It’s been a fantastic journey, to show commitment and loyalty, we didn’t want someone else to build the last car.”

Holden executive director of manufacturing Richard Phillips, who started his career as an apprentice fitter and machinist in the maintenance team at the Holden plant in 1987, said though the manufacturing had ceased, “there are many more chapters in the Holden story”.

“Sixty-nine years ago the prime minister Ben Chifley announced our first Australian-built vehicle with the words ‘she’s a beauty’ and today, as a humble lad from Elizabeth, as I saw that car rolling past me on the line, the thought came to my mind was simply that ‘she’s perfect’,” he said.

“What an outstanding team we’ve had here that have ensured that our last car is the best car ever.”

Holden, which once commanded more than 50 per cent of Australian new-car sales, now enters the phase of importing all its vehicles. To the end of September this year, it has seven per cent of the market.

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