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Ford Australia has brought to a close 54 years of local Falcon Ute production today, ahead of the company’s total withdrawal from Australian vehicle manufacturing in just 70 days’ time.
The final Ute down the line at the Broadmeadows plant, located just outside Melbourne, was a white XR6, accompanied by a grey XR6 Turbo.
More than 479,000 utes have been built at the Victorian plant since 1961.
Two Ford Australia sites – the engine plant at Geelong and the Falcon/Territory manufacturing line at Broadmeadows – will be permanently closed in October, after the company announced in 2013 that it was pulling out of local production.
It will be held in our historical vehicle fleet, along with the final Falcon and final Territory.
More than 850 workers will lose their jobs from the two sites, with 350 positions already culled.
Today’s closure of Ute production is part of the company’s planned timeline to cease local production of the Falcon, Falcon Ute and Territory. All three cars are built on the same line.
Ford Australia’s communications and public affairs director Wes Sherwood said today that the last ute would not be sold or auctioned off for charity.
“It will be held in our historical vehicle fleet, along with the final Falcon and final Territory, both of which will be built on October 7,” he said.
“We will have them for our private celebration on October 7, and have them at a loyalist event shortly after that, and then we’ll make them available for museums and car shows and the like.”
Two photographs of ute bodies purporting to be the final two Utes to travel down the line were circulated on social media this week. Sherwood would not confirm nor deny that the images were of the final cars.
“We haven’t chased down those images, but the vehicle wasn’t built until today,” said Sherwood, who added that it only takes “a couple of hours” to build a Ute. “It only happened today.”
Ford Australia president and CEO Graeme Whickman said recently that the final day would not be a media free-for-all, but a day of “dignity and respect” for the workers in the plants who will lose their jobs.
There are no plans to foreshorten production of the Falcon or Territory, with both cars actually lifting in sales as the axe looms.
“Because of the complexity of closing down a plant, there are various milestones to hit,” said Sherwood.
“In September we’ll start shutting down parts of the plant that supply parts to the final assembly plant [ahead of October’s closure].”
Mr Whickman dismissed rumours at the launch of the Focus RS in early July that the plant would be closed early.
“Regardless of the drop in the volumes, we said we were going to go for a period of time and we set ourselves out to do that,” he said.
“We knew there were some pros and cons to that, but we certainly want to do it in the proper way and we will honour those commitments.”
Ford Australia is credited with inventing the coupe utility bodystyle in the 1930s
The Ute runs down the same line as the Falcon and Territory.
Ford Australia is credited with inventing the coupe utility bodystyle in the 1930s, with the first Falcon-branded ute – an XK – offered in 1961.
Holden recently announced it would close the Cruze production line in its Adelaide factory on October 7 with the loss of 320 jobs, ahead of a shutdown of Commodore sedan, wagon and ute production at the end of 2017.
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