Ford plans to close five North American plants

Ford Motor Co. is likely to close five North American plants as part of a still-evolving restructuring plan to be announced next month, according to a newspaper report published Friday. While the plan is still being formulated and is subject to change, The Wall Street Journal reported that that nation's second biggest automaker is likely to close assembly plants in St. Louis, Atlanta and St. Paul, Minnesota. It cited two unidentified people familiar with the automaker's product plans.

The newspaper said an engine-parts plant in Windsor, Ontario, and a truck-assembly plant in Cuautitlan, Mexico, are also slated for closure. Together, the plants employ about 7,500 workers, or 6 percent of Ford's North American work force.

"Obviously, we've indicated we will address our excess capacity," Ford spokesman Oscar Suris told The Associated Press on Friday. "We've been pretty consistent in saying we'll share these plans in more detail in January. Nothing is finalized." The report comes a day after Ford said sales of its Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brands fell 18 percent in November, and it said it would produce 2.5 percent fewer vehicles in North America in the first quarter than it did last year. Ford Chairman and CEO Bill Ford has said he plans to announce U.S. plant closings and layoffs in January. The January restructuring plan will be the latest in a series of shake-ups and cost-cutting moves at the Dearborn-based automaker, which reported a third-quarter loss of $284 million (Ђ243 million).

In North America, it lost $1.2 billion (Ђ1.03 billion) before taxes. On Thursday, Ford said its car sales slid 6 percent despite strong demand for the company's new Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan and Lincoln Zephyr sedans and a 46 percent increase in sales of the Ford Freestyle crossover. Sales of Ford trucks and sport utility vehicles slipped 22 percent, led by a 52 percent decline in sales of the newly redesigned Ford Explorer SUV.

Ford also said it plans to build 850,000 vehicles in North America in the first quarter, down 2.5 percent from a year ago. Ford said it will be increasing car production and lowering its output of trucks and SUVs, reports the AP. N.U.

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