The end of a long era for Pilkington

Date: 26 January 2009
Source: Pilkington
Previously known as Pilkington Australia, the Geelong factory specialised in automotive glass. It opened in 1936 to support the Geelong Ford plant, which opened 11 years earlier.

The firm was founded by the Pilkington brothers William and Richard, who started making glass at St Helens in England in 1826. It remained a family business until it was listed on the London stock exchange in 1970.

A sales agency was opened in Australia in 1853, and the first shipment of Pilkington glass to Australian arrived at Geelong in 1856.

The Geelong plant´s opening in 1936 was just three years before the outbreak of World War II, and it was soon contributing to the war effort making items such as gas mask lenses.

The Geelong plant was the first in Australia to make laminated glass, and 10 years ago it was the major automotive glass supplier in the country, employing about 350 staff.

As far back as 1980, the firm employed 500 at its Geelong plant, but the real slide started in the late 1990s when Ford decided to switch to a Chinese manufacturer for all glass windows for its Falcon sedans and wagons.

The next blow came in 2003, when Holden announced it would not renew its contracts with Pilkington.

The last of those contracts expired in 2007.

That same year Pilkington Australia was bought out by building materials company CSR.

In March last year CSR announced that Geelong´s Pilkington operations would merge with a Melbourne glass firm to create the $1 billion entity Viridian.

But yesterday CSR said it would cease the production of automotive glass in June this year, and the Geelong factory would be sold to offset the costs of closing, including redundancies.

600450 The end of a long era for Pilkington

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