Ford to closes to trim coasts

Ford Motor Co., might close more plants after a 2002 plan to cut costs failed to end losses in North America, Ford President James Padilla said.

"We will align our capacity with demand and see how that falls," Padilla, said Wednesday at the Frankfurt International Motor Show. The automaker already closed the Jaguar Browns Lane plant in Britain and soon will close a van plant in Lorain, Ohio, he said.

Plant closings could be part of a further restructuring that CEO Bill Ford plans to carry out in the fourth quarter. Bill Ford in August promised new initiatives that will go beyond cost cutting to combat dwindling profits and shrinking U.S. market share. Last week, he reassigned five executives and named Ford of Europe Executive Vice President Mark Fields to run operations in North America.

"Ford is clearly on the path of closing at least a car plant if not a truck plant," Global Insight Inc. analyst Rebecca Lindland said in an interview from Frankfurt. "They're losing market share, and they have too much capacity."

Ford got a start on plant closings with this week's contract agreement with the Canadian Auto Workers. The union agreed that Ford could close a Windsor casting plant, cutting 1,100 jobs, or 8.8% of the union's membership of 12,460.

The automaker surrendered market share in the United States for 28 straight months until July and August, when sales were boosted by offers of employee prices for all customers. The company has lost money in North America in three of the last four quarters, and profits have slipped 31% this year. CAW President Buzz Hargrove cited Ford's declining market share in the Canadian union's agreement to accept job losses, reports Detroit Free Press.

Ford Motor also has retreated from its pledge to return its Jaguar luxury brand to profit by 2007, intensifying the pressure on the American carmaker as it struggles with heavy losses in its core US business.

Mark Fields, outgoing chairman of the Premier Automotive Group of Ford’s premium brands, said the target was “misplaced” and refused to say when Jaguar now expected to stem the red ink. “I’m not going to put a date on when Jaguar will return to profitability,” he said. “But clearly it is my intention to make Jaguar a profitable business,” informs Financial Times.

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