General Motors’ Australian operation Holden has taken on 1,000 new employees for a third shift at its vehicle manufacturing plant in Elizabeth, South Australia.

Holden’s executive director operations, Albert Lidauer, described the third shift as a milestone in the long history of Holden in South Australia.

“The extra shift means we can revise our daily production rate from 620 vehicles per day to 780 vehicles per day – a record for this plant and more than any other automotive manufacturer in Australia,” Lidauer said.

“The third shift increases Holden’s South Australian workforce from 4,200 to 5,200 and almost 9,000 nationally and represents an injection of more than $A50 million in wages into the South Australian economy.

Said Lidauer: “The introduction of the third shift will help position Holden as a niche global manufacturer, increasingly capable of delivering world class products to a range of markets and taking Australian know-how to the world.

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“From the time we made this decision, we have extensively consulted our workforce to develop a model which ensures the most effective work pattern and balance of expertise across the plant.

“The flexibility and co-operation of our workforce, suppliers and unions, has been instrumental in ensuring the success of this enormous logistical exercise.”

Lidauer also said the introduction of the third shift increased the plant’s ability to provide one of the world’s most flexible production platforms.

“This expansion in production capacity, accompanied by a $408 million capital expenditure program in Adelaide, launched late last year, will enable Holden to further increase its model portfolio,” he said.

“The plant will be capable of producing an incredible 35 variants off a single platform in right-hand-drive and left-hand-drive model configurations for Australian and overseas customers.

“By the end of this year, Holden expects to export 38,000 vehicles to countries including the United States, eight countries in the Middle East region, New Zealand, Brazil and South Africa.”

Holden will soon begin production of a left-hand drive Monaro coupe derivative, the Pontiac GTO, for the United States.

GM’s ‘down under’ arm is Australia’s largest vehicle manufacturer, producing 146,000 vehicles for domestic and export markets last year. The company sold 178,392 locally built and imported vehicles in 2002, the largest single-year sales by any Australian carmaker.

The company has also been enjoying particular success with imported General Motors Europe Opel Corsa, Astra and new Vectra model lines, badged as Holdens, which have been well received by the usually parochial local motoring press.