COLUMBIA CITY, Ind. (AP) -- Autoliv, a Swedish maker of air bags and other auto parts, plans to close its northeastern Indiana plant by the end of 2009, costing 380 workers their jobs.
The company, which announced the closure plans Friday, doesn't expect the American auto market to recover enough in the foreseeable future to justify keeping open its Columbia City plant about 20 miles west of Fort Wayne.
The first to be furloughed will be the plant's 75 temporary workers, said Kris Bessinger, Autoliv North America's senior director of human resources. The first permanent workers likely will be laid off later this year.
Bessinger said employees will lose their jobs as Autoliv moves production lines to a sister plant in Ogden, Utah.
The jobs are being shed by a Whitley County economy that employs about 22,000, said Alan Tio, president of the Whitley County Economic Development Corp.
The losses will add to a county unemployment rate that has climbed to 6 percent in August 2008 from 4 percent in August 2007.
"If this goes through, it will be a big loss for our area," Tio said Friday.
He said he wants to meet with company officials to get an idea of why they decided to close the plant and see whether that decision can be reversed.
But that appears unlikely. Bessinger said Autoliv is operating in a North American auto market that produced 16.3 million vehicles three years ago but will barely make 13 million this year.
Bessinger said the Autoliv, which has more than 80 factories in 32 countries, doesn't expect a rapid recovery.
"We wouldn't have made this decision if we thought that was going to be the case," she said.