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Ford Australia Cutting 350 Jobs

The cuts, expected in mid-November, follow an earlier announcement that 600 jobs would be lost when local six-cylinder engine production ends in 2010.

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) -- Ford Australia announced Friday that it will cut up to 350 jobs, or 15 percent of its Australian manufacturing work force, due to a slump in sales of large cars.

The cuts, expected in mid-November, follow an earlier announcement that 600 jobs would be lost when local six-cylinder engine production ends in 2010.

Ford spokeswoman Sinead McAlary said changing consumer preferences, rising fuel prices and economic factors had caused a decline in the large-car segment.

She said the job losses would be voluntary and evenly split between two plants in the state of Victoria.

Ford Motor Co. has seen its sales slump in the U.S. and abroad and the automaker lost $8.7 billion in the second quarter as it moves to adjust from trucks to a stronger car lineup.

McAlary said the company planned to hire about 300 workers in Australia when it starts production of the Ford Focus in 2011 but the current cuts were necessary in the interim.

Industry Minister Kim Carr said there could be more job cuts in the embattled automotive industry, warning that one-third of suppliers are in "a state of distress".

"We know that the industry is facing these acute challenges and I can't say with any certainty that there won't be further announcements in regard to job losses," he told Sky News.

Ford's decision comes at a trying time for Australia's automotive industry. Mitsubishi closed its Australian factory earlier this year, and GM's Australian arm Holden recently axed 1,100 jobs at two plants.

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