FORD Motor Co. plans to cut up to 5,000 salaried jobs in North America, source says

Friday, August 17th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DETROIT (AP) _ Ford Motor Co. plans to eliminate between 4,000 and 5,000 white-collar jobs in North America by the end of the year, the automaker announced Friday.

The cuts, which will come about largely through retirements, will account for about 10 percent of the automaker's salaried work force in North America.

``The voluntary separation program is a difficult, but necessary action,'' Jacques Nasser, Ford president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. ``These actions will help us operate the business more efficiently, streamline our organization and align our skill base with future needs.''

Nasser pointed to a competitive economic auto market as one of the reasons for the job cuts.

Ford so far this year has cut other costs by eliminating a shift at its Michigan Truck plant in suburban Detroit; eliminating overtime at several other North American assembly plants; imposing a hiring freeze; and reducing travel, contract worker and other expenses, the statement said.

``Although we have reduced total costs nearly $7 billion over the last four years, we need to continue to accelerate our efforts to improve our efficiencies, while protecting important new product plans,'' Nasser said in the statement.

A yearlong economic slowdown has been hard on automakers as well as other companies struggling with slumping demand. To cope, they have scaled back production and capital investment and laid off workers.

In the last 12 months, manufacturers nationwide have cut a total of 837,000 jobs. Telecommunications, computer and electronics companies have announced more than 358,000 job cuts this year, according to Challenger, Gray and Christmas, a job-placement firm.

In January, DaimlerChrysler AG announced an aggressive restructuring program at its U.S.-based Chrysler division that would result in the loss of 26,000 jobs over the next three years, about 20 percent of the company's North American work force.

Ford, the world's No. 2 automaker, said it expects to record a one-time, after-tax charge of about $700 million, or 40 cents a share, in the fourth quarter, to cover the cost of the cuts. Ford also said it would be taking a $200 million charge in the third quarter, resulting from the write-down of investments in e-commerce and auto-related ventures.

Ford said it expects full-year 2001 earnings to be about 70 cents per share, before one-time charges.

Once thought to be in a position to overtake General Motors Corp. as the world's leading automaker, Ford's momentum slipped into reverse last August with the recall of 6.5 million Firestone tires, many of which were installed as original equipment on its popular Ford Explorers.

Adding to Ford's woes were disappointing showings in two influential industry studies. Ford assembly plants were shown to be last among the U.S. automakers in quality in the J.D. Power initial quality study, and while still first among domestic car companies in productivity, the Harbour Report found Ford's lead diminishing.

In the second quarter that ended June 30, Ford lost $752 million in large part due to the costs of replacing 13 million Firestone tires and restructuring charges involving Mazda Motor Corp., of which Ford owns a one-third interest.

Ford management also has begun reviewing the possible delay of some planned vehicle models, which would lower the company's design and engineering costs, The New York Times reported.

Shares of Ford were up 92 cents, or more than 4 percent, to close at $23.47 in trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday.