Ford Workers Brace For Bad News

Assemblyman Jason Rapp prepares to install a door on a Ford F-150 truck at the Dearborn Assembly Plant in Dearborn, Mich., Jan. 31, 2005.
Ford Motor Co. employees are bracing for thousands of jobs cuts in North America as the company embarks on a new restructuring plan.

Ford was set to announce details of the plan Monday morning in Dearborn, home of the 103-year-old automaker's headquarters.

Earlier Monday, Ford reported earnings of $2 billion in 2005, down 42 percent from last year's profit of $3.5 billion. It was the third straight year the automaker has reported a profit, but gains in Europe, Asia and elsewhere were offset by a loss of $1.6 billion in North American operations.

Those numbers were on the plus side in 2004, reports Jeff Gilbert of CBS radio station WWJ-AM.

Ford has refused to release details of the plan, dubbed the "Way Forward," which is expected to include plant closings, product changes and cuts to Ford's salaried ranks. Ford has approximately 87,000 hourly workers and 35,000 salaried workers in North America.

"Maybe I'll be happy, maybe I'll be sour, but I've had 29 years of good living from Ford, and if my plant closes, then, so it be," a worker at the Wixom Assembly Plant in Wixom, Mich. — one of the facilities analysts have speculated could be on the chopping block — told WWJ-AM.

The cutbacks are just the first step, said Catherine Madden, a senior analyst for Global Insight.

"It may be cliché at this point, but no doubt, product is king, and they need to establish what the Ford and Mercury and Lincoln brands are to the consumer," Madden told CBS Radio News.

The No. 2 U.S. automaker has been hurt by falling sales of its profitable sport utility vehicles, growing health care and materials costs and labor contracts that have limited its ability to close plants and cut jobs. The United Auto Workers union will have to agree to some of the changes Ford wants to make.

"We don't like to see any jobs go away," UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said last week. "We're always in hope that down the road we'll be able to reverse some of those decisions."

Ford also has seen its U.S. market share slide as a result of increasing competition from foreign rivals. The company suffered its tenth straight year of market share losses in the United States in 2005, and for the first time in 19 years, Ford lost its crown as America's best-selling brand to General Motors Corp.'s Chevrolet. Ford sold around 2.9 million vehicles for a market share of 17.4 percent in 2005, down from 18.3 percent the year before and 24 percent in 1990.