As thousands of people attended an automobile rally in Australia's blue-collar heartland on Sunday, many knew it was also a funeral procession for the nation's car industry.
General Motors Co. will close its Holden factory in the South Australian suburb of Elizabeth on 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.
The closures mark the end of home-grown icons such as the Holden Commodore and the Ford Falcon driven by Mel Gibson in the original "Mad Max" movie. But they also strike an economic blow, especially in the rust belt state of South Australia, where recent signs of recovery haven't been enough to stop people leaving in droves.
"It is clear that the automobile industry is a very significant industry that once it is gone, will leave a very deep economic gap, an investment gap and an employment gap," said John Spoehr, a professor of economics and director of the Australian Industrial Transformation Institute at Flinders University in Adelaide. "Holden injects a billion dollars plus into the South Australia economy. So its loss is going to be very significant."