Early Ford production halt anticipated Firm ready to announce end of 2 car lines, van

March 15, 1997|By KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co., in its aggressive plan to cut $1 billion from operating costs this year, is poised Monday to announce it will kill the Ford Thunderbird, Mercury Cougar and Ford Aerostar van earlier than expected.

The announcement means that thousands of United Auto Workers union members at the Ford assembly plant in Lorain, Ohio, would lose their jobs.

Ford spokesman Bert Serre declined to comment, saying it is the company's policy to inform workers first of strategic changes that affect them.

But senior UAW officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that the Thunderbird and Cougar car lines, along with the Aerostar van, will be discontinued in the end of June.

The move represents a significant acceleration of the company's plan. Until now, Ford had planned to discontinue Cougar production at the end of this year and discontinue production of the Thunderbird by 2000.

The Lorain plant will continue partial assembly of Ford Econoline vans, but that employs only about one-quarter of its 3,500 workers.

"Ford will probably say on Monday that they're investigating putting another product into Lorain, but at this point, I don't see that happening," said Alan Baum, an analyst with IRN Inc. in Grand Rapids, Mich.

The Lorain plant is configured to build large rear-wheel-drive cars, Baum said. Ford is cutting back on the production of such cars and isn't likely to make the hefty investment to retool Lorain because it's got too many car factories in general.

Ford's North American car production has dropped from 2.05 million in 1994 to an estimated 1.75 million this year.

Pub Date: 3/15/97

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