Ford Says 38,000 Workers Accept Buyout Offer

Ford Motor Co. (F) said Wednesday that about 38,000 of its hourly production workers have accepted buyouts or early retirement offers so far this year.

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The figure includes approximately 30,000 buyouts during the open enrollment period that concluded late Monday, plus about 8,000 who took deals offered at limited plants earlier this year.

Faced with lower demand for its products, Ford had hoped that 25,000 to 30,000 workers would take one of eight packages so it could reduce manufacturing capacity to better match demand.

A 38,000-worker reduction would amount to nearly 46 percent of the 83,000 unionized employees that Ford had at the start of the year.

Ford shares rose 17 cents, or 2.1 percent, to $8.32 in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Those who accepted the buyout packages will begin to leave the company starting in January, the company said.

The eight packages offered to employees ranged from $35,000 to $140,000 depending on their years of service, age and how close they are to retirement.

"One of Ford's priorities, and a large cost component of our `Way Forward' plan for North America, is our ability to adjust manufacturing capacity with demand, while continuing to reduce operating costs and becoming more efficient," Ford President and Chief Executive Alan Mulally said in a statement. "While I know that in many cases decisions to leave the company were difficult for our employees, the acceptances received through this voluntary effort will help Ford to become more competitive."

Ford lost $7 billion in the first nine months of the year, and the company on Monday announced that it plans to get about $18 billion in financing i part to pay for its restructuring. Ford's share of the market has declined from around 26 percent in the early 1990s to 17.6 percent at the end of October.

The nation's second biggest automaker after General Motors Corp. (GM) expects to cut its costs by $5 billion through 2008, with further unspecified reductions in 2009.

Ford has announced plans to close 16 plants as part of the restructuring plan. Nine of the plants have been identified, but the company has not named the remaining seven.

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