Ford slashing 7 000 jobs as disruption sweeps car industry

Ford plans to eliminate about 7 000 salaried jobs - about 10% of its global white-collar workforce - as pressures mount on automakers to keep pace with massive technological shifts amid signs global car demand has peaked.

Eliminating the positions will save Ford about $600m a year, CEO Jim Hackett wrote in a memo to employees Monday, seven months after the company informed employees of a salaried workforce "redesign".

The majority of the cuts will be completed by May 24 in North America. By the end of August it will be completed in markets including Europe, China and South America.

"To succeed in our competitive industry, and position Ford to win in a fast-changing future, we must reduce bureaucracy, empower managers, speed decision making, focus on the most valuable work, and cut costs," Hackett wrote. “Ford is a family company and saying goodbye to colleagues is difficult and emotional."

Ford shares briefly moved higher before the start of regular trading but were down 0.3% to $10.26 as of 10:15 Monday in New York trading. The stock has climbed 34% this year after plunging in 2018.

The dismissals are designed to shrink Ford's management structure by 20% and streamline the number of organisational layers to nine or less, from 14, Hackett said. The number of jobs cut is far less drastic than the 25 000 that a Morgan Stanley analyst predicted last year.

In the US, there will be 800 "involuntary separations", including 500 this week, according to a Ford spokesperson. Some 1 500 US employees have already accepted voluntary buyouts, bringing the total number of salaried job cuts in Ford’s home market to 2 300. 

As of April 25, Ford had 196 000 employees worldwide, down from 202 000 at the end of 2017.

Struggle to cope

The memo provides additional details of a company-wide salaried job reduction that Ford notified employees of in October, and is part of a broader $11bn restructuring. Other changes focus on product development, such as the creation of a new vehicle architecture and design team and greater investments in infotainment, software development and electrification.

The cuts come as many global automakers are struggling to cope with consumers’ preference for crossovers and SUVs over sedans, slumping sales and the cost of electrifying their lineups to meet stiffer emissions restrictions in markets including China and Europe.

General Motors, Volkswagen and Tata's Jaguar Land Rover also are eliminating thousands of employees as the rise of electrification and self-driving vehicle technology reshapes the global auto industry.

"Ford is squeezing every cent they can out of the current business by cutting employees, cutting products and getting out of unprofitable businesses so they can put more money into future technology like electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles and mobility services," said Michelle Krebs, an analyst with car-shopping researcher Autotrader.

"The danger is cutting so much that you hurt today’s business and eat your seed corn."

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