Ford Ahead of Schedule On Job Cuts, Plant Closures

Ford's CEO Mulally: 29 percent reduction of North American work force by 2008 was ''absolutely the right thing to do.''

NEW YORK (AP) – Ford Motor Co.'s plan to return to profitability by cutting thousands of jobs and closing plants is ahead of schedule, Chief Executive Alan Mulally said Friday during a meeting with analysts in Dearborn, Mich.

Faced with increasing competition from overseas rivals such as Toyota Motor Corp., Mulally said Ford's restructuring plan, which includes a 29 percent reduction of its total North American work force by 2008, was ''absolutely the right thing to do.''

Mulally said Ford is focused on accelerating new product development, while bringing its offerings in line with changing consumer demand and promoting profitable growth.

Ford has seen its market share deteriorate in recent years, as high fuel prices have driven consumers away from its signature sport utility vehicles and light trucks.

At the same time, Toyota has seen its U.S. sales rise, beating Ford out for the No. 2 sales spot in July and November.

Ford, which lost $7.2 billion in the first nine months of 2006, has taken several drastic steps during the year to refashion itself into a smaller, more competitive company.

In September, it announced a more aggressive restructuring that would bring its number of white-collar positions down by 14,000, in addition to the 38,000 hourly employees that accepted buyouts and early retirement packages.

Ford also has mortgaged its assets to borrow up to $23.4 billion to fund the restructuring plan and cover the billions in losses expected until 2009.

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