DEARBORN, Mich., Aug. 17 -- Ford Motor Co. announced Friday it will offer white-collar workers an employee-buyout program in an effort to cut 4,000 to 5,000 positions, or 10 percent of its U.S. salaried workforce.
The early-out offer followed a management shakeup that established a power-sharing arrangement between the Australian-born Nasser and Chairman William Clay Ford Jr., and comes amid flat revenues and continuing controversy over rollover accidents involving its Ford Explorer and Firestone tires.
"The voluntary separation program is difficult but necessary action," said Jacques Nasser, Ford's president and chief executive officer. "These actions will help us operate the business more efficiently, streamline our organization and align our skill base with future needs "
Martin Inglis, Ford's chief financial officer said the automaker was reviewing further restructuring of its North American operations and said "nothing is off limits."
Ford had a U.S. salaried work force of 45,822 at the end of last year.
Ford announced the layoffs Friday as it warned it will miss third- and fourth-quarter estimates.
The company said it expected to take an after-tax, non-cash charge of about $200 million, about 10 cents per share, in the third quarter to pay for the voluntary-separation program, which takes effect in mid-October. The automaker expects to take a one-time, after-tax charge of $700 million, or 40 cents per share, in the fourth quarter. The two charges would slash the expected earnings outlook to 70 cents per share.
Reaction on Wall Street was skeptical. Ford shares were down $2.06 to $21.41 on the New York Stock Exchange Friday afternoon and Standard & Poor's, the financial rating service, warned it may cut Ford's credit and debt ratings.
Ford's sales were down 12.7 percent in July, the biggest drop among the Big Three automakers.
Until Friday, Ford was the only one of the Big Three automaker to avoid layoffs this year. DaimlerChrysler AG earlier announced it would eliminate 26,000 jobs and General Motors, 6,000 jobs, plus 2,000 contract workers.
Some of those offered buyout packages will be eligible immediately for retirement benefits. Packages will be based on years of service and age. They also include health care coverage and other incentives.
Those who accept the packages will be allowed to decide whether to leave immediately or work through the end of the year.
The announcement is Ford's latest effort to gain efficiencies. Earlier this year, it reduced capacity by eliminating a shift at Michigan Truck, eliminating overtime at several other assembly plants, implementing a hiring freeze, and reducing travel, contract workers and other expenses. Ford expects the buyout to save it $500 million annually.
"The North American market has become fiercely competitive. Although we have reduced total costs nearly $7 billion over the last four years, we need to continue to accelerate our efforts to improve our efficiencies, while protecting important new product plans," Nasser said.
Ford also has come under pressure this year over employee evaluations, which some long-time workers charge discriminate against older, white workers. The initial evaluation system required 10 percent of workers to be given unsatisfactory evaluations, which could result in demotion and eventual firing. That system was revised after a number of lawsuits were filed.
Nasser has said he is committed to diversifying Ford's workforce and has expressed dismay at the number of white workers the company employs.