Ford to close US casting plant employing 1,100

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Ailing Ford Motor Co. said Monday it would close facilities in Cleveland, Ohio, by 2009, affecting some 1,100 hourly workers, as part of its North American belt-tightening.

Ford, which lost a record 12.7 billion dollars in 2006, said the move was part of the "Way Forward" program to restore profitability to its North American automotive operations by aligning manufacturing capacity with customer demand.

The Cleveland casting plant opened in 1952 and employs 1,100 hourly and 118 salaried workers, according to Ford. It produces cast-iron components for engines for Ford trucks and sport utility vehicles (SUVs).

Ford also announced a temporary shutdown beginning in two weeks at its Cleveland Engine Plant for about 12 months, saying production could resume sooner based on market demand.

The automaker said its 3.5-liter engine now will be produced at a Lima, Ohio, plant "to better utilize capacity and improve overall productivity."

"These are difficult actions, and we're approaching them with great sensitivity because they involve our people," said Joe Hinrichs, Ford's vice president of North America Manufacturing.

"However, operating an efficient and competitive manufacturing business is a key to our Way Forward plan to transform our business back to sustained profitability."

The engine plant employs 530 hourly and 47 salaried workers.

A second engine plant in Cleveland with 700 workers will continue to operate and produce 3.0-liter engines for Ford and Mazda cars and SUVs and for some Jaguar models.

With the latest action, Ford is closing a total of 16 North American plants under its vast overhaul plan.

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