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Published: 9/15/2006

Ford to shut down Maumee stamping plant as company readies buyout plan for 75,000

FROM BLADE STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS
Employees leave Ford s Wixom Assembly Plant in Wixom, Mich., early this year. Ford s buyout plan will offer hourly workers varying amounts based on age and time of service.
Employees leave Ford s Wixom Assembly Plant in Wixom, Mich., early this year. Ford s buyout plan will offer hourly workers varying amounts based on age and time of service.
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DETROIT Ford Motor Co. this morning said it will shut down a stamping plant in Maumee and an engine plant in Essex, Ontario, and it will offer buyouts of as much as $140,000 to all of its U.S. hourly workers.

The moves are key to the automaker's bid to cut costs amid slumping vehicle sales. The actions are part of its third restructuring plan in five years.

Maumee stamping plant is scheduled to close in 2008 and an Essex, Ontario, engine plant in 2007.

Ford will extend buyouts and early retirements to more than 75,000 United Auto Workers members, the union and company said.

The UAW agreed to amputate an arm and a leg to save the body, said Sean McAlinden, an economist at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor.

The level of competition now means Ford has to get it done in the next 24 months, he said.

The nation s No. 2 automaker is trying to pare its work force as it prepares to close at least 14 North American manufacturing sites by 2012. Ford said previously that it plans to trim 30,000 hourly jobs, but today said it would cut another 10,000 salaried jobs and most of the cuts are to be done by 2008.

Ford s Maumee Stamping Plant, which has 630 employees making 147 parts for 22 factories worldwide, was one of two additional factories the firm said it would close.

The only other Ford factory in the area is a Lima, Ohio, engine plant, which was not affected by the added cutbacks announced today. It has about 900 employees making V-6 engines.

Also part of its restructuring, Ford plans to sell or close all of the former Visteon Corp. parts factories it resumed ownership of last year, including those in Monroe and Sandusky. Those two plants have about 3,000 employees.

The 14 plants Ford previously said it would close include seven vehicle-assembly sites.

Regarding the buyout proposal, UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said in a statement: Once again, our members are stepping up to make hard choices under difficult circumstances.

Now, it s Ford Motor Co. s responsibility to lead this company in a positive direction which means using the skills, experience, and dedication to quality that UAW members demonstrate every day in order to deliver quality vehicles to customers.

Under the plan the union detailed, workers can choose between eight packages that offer from $35,000 to $140,000 depending on their years of service, age, and how close they are to retirement age.

I think it s a good package, said Chris Kimmons, president of UAW Local 919 at the Norfolk, Va., assembly plant. I think they worked real hard on it. They ve got to do something to help Ford out of this crisis.

The buyouts are part of a larger restructuring plan approved by Ford s board of directors during a two-day meeting that ended yesterday.

Separately, Ford said that Anne Stevens, an architect of the restructuring effort at Ford and one of the auto industry s highest-ranking women, is retiring. Ms. Stevens, 57, had been at the center of Ford s turnaround efforts since October, 2005.

Also leaving is Group Vice President David Szczupak, 51, head of manufacturing.

The executives are leaving less than two weeks after Ford hired Alan Mulally as chief executive officer. Mr. Mulally, 61, came from Boeing Co.

Ford lost $1.4 billion during the first half of the year and is under pressure from Wall Street to make further cuts and roll out new cars and trucks more quickly.

The firm has been battered by the market s shift from trucks and sport utility vehicles to more fuel-efficient cars and crossovers.

A financial forecast prepared by Ford s top financial officer, obtained by the Detroit News, said the company s loss this year could be as much as $9 billion.



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