Tony O'Kane | May 1, 2009

Today will be the last day for Holden's assembly line workers to work an afternoon shift, with the automaker going ahead with plans to halve output at its vehicle assembly plant in Elizabeth, South Australia.

Production will be cut from 620 to 310 cars per day and the majority of Holden's 3150 workers put onto a week-on, week-off day shift roster. Wages will essentially be halved for affected workers, with afternoon-shift workers also losing the extra loading they were previously entitled to.

A decline in demand for large cars in a slow vehicle market as well as the ditching of the Pontiac brand in the USA (which sold the Australian-built Pontiac G8) has been the main cause behind the production slowdown (although Holden had factored-in a stalled G8 program some months ago). With local assembly of the Holden Cruze still some distance away, it may be a while before the Elizabeth plant returns to a two-shift schedule.

Pontiac G8 Production at Holden's Adelaide plant

It's a far cry from Holden's local-production heyday between 2003 and 2005, when the company's assembly plant ran a non-stop three-shift roster. However, increasing fuel costs after the turn of the new century led to a gradual market shift away from large cars, forcing Holden to cut the nightshift in 2005 and reduce daily production to 620 vehicles.

All may not be lost however. Holden is currently under negotiations to bring the Commodore-based Pontiac G8 back to the USA under a different badge (and possibly as a police-only vehicle), while increased export deals to the Chinese, South Korean and Middle-Eastern markets are also under consideration.

With the foreign export market potentially worth tens of thousands of vehicles, the Commodore-producing Elizabeth plant may yet see a resurgence in production. For now though, it's no longer business as usual.

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