Ford, UAW discuss shift from trucks to cars

UPDATED: 6/13/08 3:36 pm EDT

DETROIT (Reuters) -- Ford Motor Co. laid out plans for further hourly job cuts in a meeting between executives and the United Auto Workers union on Friday as the embattled automaker reduces production of slow-selling trucks.

Ford, which previously said it would make plant-by-plant buyout offers, told the UAW it hoped to have plans for buyouts at specific locations "very soon," Ford spokeswoman Anne Marie Gattari said.

The meeting between Ford managers and union representatives was the first large formal session between Ford and UAW local leaders since the automaker warned in May that it wold not meet a long-standing goal of returning to profitability in 2009.

The company also has warned that it would need to make fewer of the large vehicles that had driven profits in recent years, shifting production to smaller vehicles.

Ford discussed "business realities," but did not discuss product and manufacturing plans, Gattari said.

UAW members who attended the meeting declined to comment on the topics discussed.

Joe Hinrichs, Ford's global manufacturing chief, made a financial presentation to the union at the meeting, which was also hosted by UAW Vice President Bob King, who leads the UAW's Ford department. UAW President Ron Gettelfinger also attended.

"The world has changed dramatically over the past few months for our business and our industry," Hinrichs said in a statement. "We know we must move swiftly to face those challenges -- and we are."

Ford has been making adjustments to its salaried expenses and now must do the same in manufacturing, Gattari said.

The automaker has told its white-collar work force that it must reduce salaried expenses by 15 percent by Aug. 1 and the reductions would include involuntary job cuts.

Ford has reduced its U.S. hourly work force by about 40,000 over the past three years to roughly 54,000 workers under broad buyout offers. The targeted buyouts would require the help of local union leadership, Gattari said.

About 4,200 UAW workers accepted buyouts in the last companywide offer. Ford has not confirmed a buyout target, but it was believed to be about 8,000.

Ford has said it hopes to work within the framework of a contract reached with the UAW last year. The company aims to reduce capacity for slow-selling trucks and SUVs and increase production on in-demand vehicles such as cars and crossovers.

Hinrichs told reporters at an event in May that operating Ford's truck plants on one shift was not sustainable.

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