Holden ended 68 years of engine manufacturing in Australia in a private send-off attended by 175 workers at the company’s Port Melbourne factory.
The car maker has stockpiled V6 engines so it can continue to build the Commodore at the Elizabeth assembly line near Adelaide before it closes at the end of next year. High-powered V8 engines, which now represent more than one-third of Commodore sales, will continue to be imported from Mexico.
Holden began manufacturing at the Port Melbourne site in 1936 — assembling cars from parts imported from Britain and US — before gearing up to support the Australian military in World War II by making aircraft engines, armoured vehicles and weaponry.
Holden did not build its first car engine until 1948, the same year the first Holden sedan rolled off the production line when then prime minister Ben Chifley declared: “She’s a beauty.”
Since that time Holden has built more than 10 million engines in Australia including 1,137,282 V6s since 2003.
From 1981 to 2009, Holden built more than four million four-cylinder engines — at its peak generating more than $1 million in export revenue every working day.
From 2000, Holden’s four-cylinder factory built engines solely for export, primarily to South Korea, China, Thailand, South Africa and South America.
The company stopped making four-cylinder engines in July 2009 because they are primarily made in developing countries with lower labour costs.
The last Holden V6 went down the Port Melbourne production line yesterday.
In addition to their redundancy payout, any Holden worker still looking for a job has access to a $3000 retraining grant as part of a $15 million “transition” scheme established with the Victorian and Federal governments.
The axe fell on the Holden engine factory despite it this year being recognised as the “most valuable plant for productivity” within General Motors globally.
“The employees at Holden Engine Operations have made an enormous contribution to our company and the entire Australian motoring industry,” Holden executive director of manufacturing Richard Phillips said.
“They have literally been building the heart of many of our locally-made vehicles for decades.”