Ford Australia Ends Production of Locally Built Ute

On Oct. 7, the day Ford shutters its plant, GM Holden will end production of the Cruze sedan and hatch. Holden will close its plant next year as it stops building its iconic Commodore. Also in 2017, Toyota ends production of its Camry and Aurion models.

Alan Harman, Correspondent

August 11, 2016

3 Min Read
Ford Australia website continues featuring defunct Falcon
Ford Australia website continues featuring defunct Falcon.

Ford Australia builds the last homegrown Ford Falcon pickup before the automaker’s factory shuts down for good Oct. 7.

The company that invented the ute – the Australian name for the pickup that is short for utility – and introduced it to the rest of the world in 1934 – is on its way to becoming imported only.

Ford, along with GM Holden and Toyota, which also are ending local production, was the victim of government tariff-reduction policies that allowed a flood of low-cost imports to steal its market.

The 467,690th and last-ever Ford Falcon pickup – an XR6 model fitted with a manual transmission – rolled off the Broadmeadows production line near Melbourne, 55 years after the first model was built at the same plant. It’s being replaced by the Thailand-built Ranger pickup.

The Ford Falcon sedan and Territory SUV will be built at Broadmeadows until the factory’s last day

Australian media reports Ford Australia refused to allow reporters and photographers from seeing the last pickup roll off the line, claiming it wanted production line workers to commemorate the occasion in private. There was no immediate mention of the event on the company’s website.

“We have mixed emotions today because we realize how deeply Ford’s utes are embedded in Australian culture,” Ford Australia President and CEO Graeme Whickman is quoted as saying by the News Corp. chain.

“Ford of Australia invented the ute, perfected it with the Falcon ute and is building on that heritage with the Ranger, which our local team will continue to develop,” he says.

Legend has it Ford Australia came up with the design after receiving a letter from a Victorian farmer’s wife in 1933 requesting a vehicle “civilized enough to drive to church on Sundays and practical enough to take pigs to market on Mondays.”

Ford Australia head Hubert French gave the letter to 23-year-old engineer Lewis Bandt, who came up with the idea of fitting a truck-like pickup rear end to a Ford coupe. It debuted in 1934 at the Brisbane auto show and quickly was embraced by the parent company in Detroit.

But with lower or no tariffs, the Aussie Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore pickups have been replaced by imports such as the Toyota HiLux with their four doors and better towing and off-road capability.

The final straw was a free-trade agreement in 2004 with Thailand. The year before that deal, Ford and GM Holden sold more than 40,000 locally built pickups between them. By last year their combined pickup deliveries were down to 7,500 as imports of cars and pickups from Thailand soared from 84,000 in 2005 to 250,000 in 2015.

Through the first half of this year, the local build of all vehicles was just 40,663 units, down 11.2% from year-ago. The Falcon pickup accounted for 1,375 units and the Holden pickup, 2,561. Toyota has sold 21,171 of its Hilux models.

On the day Ford shutters its plant next month, GM Holden will end production of the Cruze sedan and hatch. GM Holden will shutter its plant next year as it stops building its iconic Commodore model. Also next year, Toyota will end production of its Camry and Aurion models.

The death of the Australian auto manufacturing, an industry that once exported its products to 46 countries, will see up to 200,000 workers impacted, from components makers and associated businesses to steel suppliers and glass manufacturers.

About the Author(s)

Alan Harman

Correspondent, WardsAuto

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