General Motors finally closes Holden in Australia

Australia’s car industry traces its roots to 1901, when land surveyor Harley Tarrant built the first gasoline-powered car in a small workshop in Melbourne. By the end of the century, Holden’s Commodore was the country’s best-selling car and remained so until 2011. As well as the currency, there was fierce competition from low-cost labor in countries such as China and Thailand.

The pressures took their toll. Ford, Holden and Toyota said separately in 2013 and 2014 they would cease production Down Under. At that time, just over 11,000 people were employed directly by the three automakers in Australia.

General Motors Co. will close its Holden factory in the South Australian suburb of Elizabeth this coming Friday, ending more than a century of car manufacturing in the country. Hundreds of workers will be left jobless, just weeks after Toyota Motor Corp. shut its plant in neighboring Victoria state, where Ford Motor Co. closed two sites last year.

Since the announcement of the closure of the Elizabeth plant, almost three quarters of departing workers have found jobs, according to Holden, which has provided career counseling, interview training and other services. While many of the 950 workers who remain at the factory will wake up without a job on Saturday, it’s not just them who will feel the pain.

The Holden factory in Elizabeth was completed in 1962 and a year later, Queen Elizabeth II, after whom the suburb was named, visited and toured the plant. Filling its gap will be daunting: the last car plant to close in the state, Mitsubishi Motors in 2008 triggered the biggest annual exodus of people to other states in 12 years.

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