Sunday, November 20, 2005

Ford to cut 4,000 jobs in North America


Ford to cut 4,000 jobs in North America

By Poornima Gupta

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co., facing a deepening financial crisis, said on Friday it plans to eliminate 4,000 salaried jobs, or 10 percent of its North American white-collar work force, as part of a larger restructuring plan.

A majority of the job cuts -- announced to employees in an e-mail distributed by Mark Fields, president of Ford's Americas business -- will be made in the first quarter of 2006, spokesman Oscar Suris said.

The cuts will come through attrition, layoffs and the elimination of some agency and contract positions, Suris said.

They will be in addition to the 2,750 job losses already announced by the automaker this year.

Ford lost $284 million in the third quarter and its automotive division is in the red. Its North American vehicle operations have lost more than $1.4 billion before taxes so far this year.

The company's shares have dropped more than 40 percent since the end of 2004. They hit $7.57 per share on Thursday, the lowest in more than two years, before rebounding to $8.41 per share on Friday.

Ford Chairman and Chief Executive Bill Ford Jr. said last month that the automaker will announce its long-awaited restructuring plan -- dubbed "Way Forward" -- in January.

He also warned that the plan would include "significant plant closings" to help slash costs in North America.

Fields and his team are expected to present Bill Ford with the restructuring plan in December.

Ford, like cross-town rival General Motors Corp., has seen its margins squeezed by intense competition in the U.S. market and by a dramatic slowdown in sales of cash cows such as mid-size and large SUVs due to high gasoline prices.

The two companies are also facing higher costs and a cut in their credit ratings to high-yield, or "junk," status.

Ford has taken a number of steps this year to strengthen its balance sheet, including the sale its Hertz Corp. rental car unit.

It also agreed to bailout former parts subsidiary Visteon Corp. and announced that it intends to increase the production of hybrid vehicles tenfold to 250,000 annually.