- The Washington Times - Friday, November 2, 2007

DETROIT (AP) — With the ink barely dry on a new four-year labor contract, Chrysler LLC says it plans to cut as many as 12,000 jobs and remove four models from its lineup. The move stunned workers and suggests the now-private Chrysler won’t hesitate to cut production and jettison vehicles that aren’t selling well.

Chrysler said yesterday it will cut 8,500 to 10,000 hourly jobs and 2,100 salaried jobs through 2008, or about 15 percent of its work force. The cuts come on top of 13,000 Chrysler layoffs that were announced in February.

Chrysler will also eliminate shifts at five North American assembly plants and cut four models, including the slow-selling PT Cruiser convertible and Dodge Magnum wagon.

Chrysler officials said falling demand for vehicles in the U.S. market made the cuts necessary. Chrysler’s sales fell 3 percent in the first nine months of this year, according to Autodata Corp., and the company said it expects sluggish sales in 2008.

“We have to move now to adjust the way our company looks and acts to reflect a smaller market,” Chrysler Vice Chairman and President Tom LaSorda, who led the company through the recent contract talks, said in a prepared statement. “That means a cost base that is right-sized and an appropriate level of plant utilization.”

Most workers will be offered buyout or early retirement packages. The details of those packages weren’t released yesterday. Workers also could be offered jobs at other plants. About 1,100 of the salaried workers affected are temporary workers, who don’t get severance packages.

“Our union will make sure our members receive all of the benefits and protections to which they are entitled under the contract,” UAW spokeswoman Christine Moroski said.

Industry analysts said the cuts were long overdue to avoid overproduction, which leads to high inventories, angry dealers and costly incentives to move cars off dealers’ lots. Chrysler, which became a private company in August, is now better equipped to make those changes because it doesn’t report earnings, the analysts said.

Private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management became the majority owner of Chrysler after buying an 80.1 percent stake from Chrysler’s former partner, German automaker Daimler AG.

As part of the new plan, shifts will be cut at vehicle assembly plants in Belvidere, Ill.; Toledo, Ohio; Brampton, Ontario; and Jefferson North and Sterling Heights in the Detroit area. Also, jobs will be cut at the company’s Mack Avenue engine plant.

The announcement comes less than a week after Chrysler workers represented by the United Auto Workers union ratified a four-year contract with the automaker. The agreement passed by a slim margin after a six-hour strike. Belvidere and Jefferson North were among the plants that voted against the agreement, while the Sterling Heights plant voted for it. All of the plants except the Toledo plant are covered by the contract, which promised $15 billion in investment at U.S. plants through 2011.

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