- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 12, 2002

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) Ford Motor Co. plans to cut 35,000 jobs, or 10 percent of its work force, close five plants and eliminate four models in a massive restructuring that its chief executive called a "painful, but necessary" effort to return the world's second-biggest automaker to profitability.

"We strayed from what got us to the top of the mountain, and it cost us greatly," Chief Executive William Clay Ford Jr. said yesterday from company headquarters in announcing the plan.

The automaker said it was taking a $4.1 billion one-time charge to pay for its plan and hopes to reach $9 billion in profits by middecade.

Ford will close the Edison assembly plant in Edison, N.J., and the Ontario truck plant in Oakville, Ontario, by 2004; the Cleveland aluminum casting plant in Brook Park, Ohio, in either 2003 or 2004; the St. Louis assembly plant in Hazelwood, Mo., by a date to be determined; and the Vulcan Forge in Dearborn, Mich., as soon as possible. About 21,500 of the job cuts are in North America.

The automaker will eliminate production of the Ford Escort, Mercury Cougar, Mercury Villager and Lincoln Continental this year.

The Escort at one time was Ford's best-selling car, but has been overshadowed by the subcompact Focus, which managed to lure a far younger audience and is the world's best-selling car. The Cougar, with its cat's-eye headlights and wedge-shaped body, never reached any significant sales volumes.

The Continental, with its history of trendsetting and design, had survived for more than 60 years. In recent years, Ford had tried to market the vehicle, which had appeal in among the 60-and-up driver, to a somewhat younger driver. The Lincoln LS sedan, which has been out about a year, is replacing the Continental as the automaker's top luxury model.

The Villager was built under a joint manufacturing arrangement with Nissan and at one time was Ford's luxury minivan. Its demise was previously announced.

The Canadian Auto Workers union, meanwhile, is threatening a potential strike to protect the 1,500-worker pickup-truck factory in Ontario.

"The only weapon workers have in bargaining is our right to withhold our labor," CAW President Buzz Hargrove told a news conference in Windsor, Ontario, shortly after Ford announced the massive restructuring.

"We will go to the bargaining table with Ford Motor Co. with a strike deadline, with one of our key demands being a continuation of the operations of Oakville Truck."

The plan also includes the suspension of bonuses for company managers and the elimination of 401(k) matching contributions for employees.

The job cuts include 12,000 manufacturing jobs and 3,500 previously announced early retirements for white-collar workers. Also included in the total were 6,800 jobs already eliminated in North America during the past year, said Nick Scheele, Ford's chief operating officer.

In addition, 8,100 jobs were being cut in Europe, 2,100 in South America, 400 in Asia and 2,500 elsewhere.

Ford employs approximately 345,000 people worldwide. It has 170,000 employees in North America and operates 47 plants there.

Ron Gettelfinger, vice president of the United Auto Workers, said Ford's restructuring will respect previously negotiated contract rights, including job-placement protections.

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