Friday, October 3, 2003

Ford outlines timetable for plant closings

By John Porretto
The Associated Press

DETROIT - Ford Motor Co. will close plants in Ohio and Michigan by year's end and another in New Jersey in the first quarter of next year as part of its new four-year agreement with the United Auto Workers, the company said Thursday.

Another factory in Ohio will end production during the next four years.

Ford, the world's second-largest automaker, already had identified the plants for closing but outlined the timetables in a conference call discussing details of the new contract, which was ratified in the past week by the UAW.

The automaker made downsizing a near certainty in January 2002 when it launched a five-year revitalization plan that called for cutting 35,000 jobs, closing five plants and discontinuing four models.

"This contract is fair and balanced and is consistent with achieving our revitalization actions," said Roman Krygier, Ford's group vice president for manufacturing and quality.

Ford, which has announced more than 7,700 job cuts worldwide this week, is under pressure to meet profit forecasts this year while engaging in a costly U.S. pricing war with General Motors Corp., DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group and others.

In a call with Wall Street analysts and automotive reporters, Ford said it also will consolidate production at its assembly plant in Lorain, Ohio, with another in Avon Lake, 17 miles away, during the term of the pact, and that a plant in Hazelwood, Mo., that produces sport utility vehicles will switch to one shift next year. The Lorain plant eventually will close.

Those that will close by the end of the year are Cleveland Aluminum Casting and Vulcan Forge in Dearborn, Mich., which was idled in March. Edison Assembly in New Jersey will close early next year.

Company spokeswoman Anne Marie Gattari declined to say how many jobs would be eliminated, noting that many workers will be eligible to transfer to other plants.

When Ford announced its restructuring, the automaker said its goal was to trim 12,000 hourly jobs in North America.

Krygier said the closings, along with shift reductions, are part of an effort to trim the company's North American manufacturing capacity by 1 million vehicles.

Ford's restructuring plan includes a goal of improving profits by $9 billion by mid-decade. The company lost $6.4 billion in 2001 and 2002 . It earned $1.3 billion in the first half of 2003. Ford reports third-quarter earnings Oct. 16.

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