[SYDNEY] The last Australian-made Ford car rolled off the production line on Friday, ending an era that began in 1925 with the legendary Model T, as the struggling local auto industry slowly fades away.
Ford announced three years ago it would stop making vehicles at its unprofitable Australian plants, a decision matched by the country's two other big car makers, US giant General Motors' Holden offshoot, and Toyota, who will end manufacturing in 2017.
All three companies blamed a combination of factors including the strength of the Australian dollar and an increasingly tough market.
Mitsubishi closed its Adelaide plant in 2008.
"Today is an emotional day for the entire team of Ford Australia," said chief executive Graeme Whickman, who added that the company had spent the past three years helping some of the 1,200 workers being made redundant transition to other opportunities.
Ford is shuttering its factories at Broadmeadows and Geelong in Victoria state. While manufacturing will stop, the company will remain in Australia as an importer and dealer, employing some 1,500 people.
"Many people think the auto industry is closing down in Australia but that is not the case at Ford," said Mr Wickman.
"As the industry transitions, we expect to become the country's largest auto employer by 2018. This will include about 1,500 highly skilled employees across professions such as engineering and design."
Dave Smith, from the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union, said it was a tough day for the 600 people who will be without a job come Monday, but said Ford had handled it well.
The last three cars off the assembly line were being raffled off to the workers losing their jobs.
"Ford is an iconic brand, they've built such classic cars over the years and the people really feel a part of that," he said.
"And of course those cars couldn't have been built without them. Them and their skills. So it's a very, very sad day." He added that "there's been a lot of emotion and it's been close to coming to the surface at times".
Australia's automaking sector employs tens and thousands of people with many more in associated industries.
But it has struggled with the effects of the high local dollar, squeezing exports and compounding rising production costs.