Goodbye Ford – it was a pleasure to drive you

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As was recently reported across the mainstream media and on our online daily news site, the last six-cylinder and V8 engines have been produced at Geelong, completing one part of the Ford’s staged shutdown, which will tie in with the last vehicle being produced at Ford’s Broadmeadows plant on October 7.

The (locally produced) blue oval is no more and to rub salt into the crankshaft, about 200 workers that were in attendance for the send-off at the factory, which opened in 1925 to make cars and engines and switched to engines and metal stamping in 1959, are set to lose their jobs.

This of course also follows the production of the last Falcon ute on July 29.

So that’s it. After 91 years, 6.05 million cars and thousands of workers from all over the world who supported themselves, their families and their communities, it’s all done – bar the faint whirring of the battery-powered portable drills used by commercial designers that will be inevitably partitioning the site into some sort of ‘smart innovation hub’ that is supposed to ‘breed’ new ideas and processes.

No doubt, over the next few months, the local member of parliament and perhaps even the Victorian premier will waltz into Ford’s (soon to be former) Broadmeadows or Geelong site to talk about how their government “is committed to redeveloping this site to enable the rich history of Australian manufacturing to continue albeit in another form” or some similar drivel we have become used to hearing from our elected representatives, whose entire understanding of the importance of manufacturing could be written on the back of a matchbox.

If that sounds bitter, well I guess it’s supposed to. The first members of my family to come to Australia arrived in Geelong in 1957 and their very first (and for most of them, only) job was working at Ford’s Geelong plant. They raised their families, educated their children, built houses and made a wonderful life for themselves in a state that was once a by-word for Australian manufacturing.

Over time, some retired, whilst others continued to work for Ford until the last of them, like my cousin at age 40 took the redundancy package and went off to start his own business. That same story, I am sure was repeated hundreds, if not thousands of times at both the Geelong and Broadmeadows sites.

This article appears in October’s edition of Manufacturers’ Monthly.

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