Ford cuts shift at B-Max assembly plant, offers buyouts

CHICAGO Fri Nov 23, 2012 2:44pm EST

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co (F.N) is cutting a shift at a factory in Romania that makes its B-Max people mover and will offer buyouts to some hourly workers as auto demand in Europe falters, the second-largest U.S. automaker said on Friday.

The Craiova Assembly Plant will now operate on a single shift. During the winter shutdown, Ford will make changes to the production process to increase the line speed, the company said.

Ford will also move its Craiova engine plant to two shifts, up from a single shift now, to support demand for the 1.0-liter turbocharged engine and the upcoming launch of the new 1.5-liter engine, Ford said.

About 500 employees working at the assembly plant will be transferred to the engine plant. Ford is also running a "limited voluntary separation program" for hourly workers with more than four years of service at Craiova.

The company is still in discussions with unions, a Ford spokesman said Friday. The plant has about 3,600 employees with most workers having more than four years of service.

The B-Max was launched in Europe this fall and is based on the same platform as the Fiesta subcompact.

Auto sales in Europe have tumbled this year as economic weakness saps consumer confidence. Ford expects to lose at least $3 billion in Europe over the next two years.

(Reporting By Deepa Seetharaman; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

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