Ford lays off 900 workers at Mustang plant

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DETROIT --- Ford Motor Co. said Tuesday that it plans to cut 900 workers at the Michigan plant that makes the Mustang, which saw sales drop sharply last year, but most will get positions at other facilities.

Ford will reduce shifts from two to one in July at the AutoAlliance International plant in Flat Rock, Mich. The plant, which is jointly owned with Mazda Motor Corp., also makes the Mazda6 midsize sedan.

The plant employs nearly 2,300 people. Most of the layoffs will be hourly manufacturing workers, but some salaried positions also will be cut, Ford spokeswoman Marcey Evans said. A majority of workers will be offered positions at other plants, she said.

Evans said there was significant down time at the plant last year. By speeding up the line and eliminating down time, Evans said Ford can build the same number of vehicles with one shift.

Demand for both vehicles fell last year, but Ford is hoping it will pick up again as the economy improves and it introduces the more powerful 2011 Mustang this spring. Mustang sales fell 27 percent last year, in part because of competition from the Chevrolet Camaro, which went on sale in the spring and came within 5,000 cars of outselling the Mustang. The Camaro hasn't outsold the Mustang since 1985. Mazda6 sales were down 34 percent.

Most of the Flat Rock workers are expected to get jobs at other plants. Ford said last month it will hire 1,200 workers at its Chicago Assembly Plant to build the new Ford Explorer. Explorer production will start at the end of this year. Ford also recently announced a plan to create 1,000 jobs in Michigan to make electric car batteries. Evans said the company also needs workers at the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich., which is scheduled to begin producing the new Ford Focus later this year.

Ford currently has around 600 workers on indefinite layoff nationwide. Those workers and the ones to be laid off at Flat Rock will have the first opportunity to take jobs at facilities that are hiring. The company has been trying to thin the ranks of hourly workers, most recently offering buyout packages to all 41,000 U.S. hourly workers in December. Around 1,000 workers took similar buyout offers last year.

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