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Ford cutting up to 30,000 jobs

Restructuring targets big losses in North America

DEARBORN, Mich. -- Ford Motor Co. plans to cut up to 30,000 jobs and shutter 14 plants in a sweeping restructuring that the nation's second-biggest automaker hopes will tackle declining market share and rising costs that led to hefty losses in North America.

Ford shares rose 42 cents, or 5.3 percent, to $8.32 on yesterday's news, indicating some investors were pleased with the plan, and the company's larger-than-expected $124 million overall profit in the fourth quarter.

Ford said the plan will restore profitability in North America by 2008.

But some analysts said it was short on details, leaving them uncertain if it would boost profits despite aggressive competition, higher gasoline prices, rising costs for labor and raw materials, and a junk credit rating.

''It's a step forward in the culture of Ford. Whether it translates into increased profits remains to be seen," said Brian Johnson, an auto analyst with Sanford Bernstein.

The cuts represent up to 25 percent of Ford's North American workforce of 122,000 people. Ford plans to cut 12 percent of its corporate officers in the next two months.

''These cuts are a painful last resort, and I'm deeply mindful of their impact," chairman Bill Ford said. ''In the long run we will create far more stable and secure jobs." We all have to change and we all have to sacrifice, but I believe this is the path to winning."

Ford also plans to build one plant in North America, but wouldn't say where. The plant must be a low-cost operation, Ford said.

UAW president Ron Gettelfinger and vice president Gerald Bantom expressed disappointment: ''The impacted hourly and salaried workers find themselves facing uncertain futures because of senior management's failure to halt Ford's sliding market share," they said, adding that Ford should try to gain market share, rather than align production capacity with shrinking demand.

Ford Americas president Mark Fields said Ford's North American plants have been operating at about three-quarters capacity.

''That is clearly unsustainable," he said.

Earlier yesterday, Ford reported earnings of $2 billion in 2005, down 42 percent from $3.5 billion in 2004.

Gains in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere were offset by a loss of $1.6 billion in North America.

''We're going to be a big company that thinks like a small company," Bill Ford said.

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