More than 1,500 contractors from across Australia, Europe and Asia have descended on General Motors’ Holden Elizabeth plant for one of South Australia’s largest capital expenditure projects.

Equipment valued at more than $A30 million will be installed at the plant in Adelaide’s northern suburbs during the two-week work blitz that started on Monday. The contractors will take over from Holden’s 5,500-strong workforce in Adelaide to deliver one of the largest parts of the firm’s $440 million investment in South Australia over the next two years.

The Elizabeth operations are shut down during the installation period, from July 5 to 16. Employees will take a combination of programmed days off and annual leave.

The entire building and maintenance programme will be finished by 2006 – in time for the all-new Commodore. Holden executive director Jeff Jamieson said the programme was vital to ensure Holden continued to make world-class vehicles to compete in the increasingly competitive global automotive industry. He said the works were part of the plant’s strategy to achieve output capability of 820 cars per day to meet and build on domestic and export programmes.

“This investment highlights Holden’s confidence in the future of Australian manufacturing and is part of its $2 billion, five-year capital expenditure programme across Australia to 2006,” Jamieson said. “Holden has also delivered more than 1000 new jobs to South Australia in the past 18 months. The works over the next two weeks will accelerate production in the second half of the year.”

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Jamieson said there was also heavy focus on significantly enhancing employee ergonomics and safety, whilst increasing productivity and capacity. The works began in the second half of 2003 with upgrades in both general assembly and the press shop.

“This is a massive project for Adelaide and Australia. At Elizabeth, we now make more than 40 models and export cars to every continent except Antarctica. It is vital that we continually improve the plant to make sure Holden remains a viable and competitive car-maker well into the future.”

Jamieson noted that Holden employed around 5,500 people at Elizabeth and was South Australia’s largest private sector employer.