* Carmaker paring back workforce after weak first half
* Union says 186 workers accepted prior offer
SAO PAULO, June 22 (Reuters) - General Motors Co began a voluntary buyout program at a second factory in Brazil on Friday, as automakers scale back production to draw down inventories that are near a four-year high.
The automaker said it was offering a buyout to workers at its Sao Caetano do Sul plant and extending an earlier buyout offer at its Sao Jose dos Campos factory. The prior offer was accepted by 186 workers in the first half of June, a metalworkers union said, adding that GM has cut a total of nearly 2,000 jobs from the two factories over the past year.
Carmakers in Brazil have slowed production as domestic dealerships work to sell off inventories near their highest levels since November 2008. The car market is slipping as Brazilians strain under record household debts and banks nervous about defaults reject more auto loans.
A senior Ford Motor Co executive told Reuters in an interview last week that the company expects Brazil’s auto market to set a new sales record by the end of the year despite a sluggish start. Carmakers hope tax breaks and record-low interest rates will jumpstart stagnant business at dealerships.
Still, analysts are second-guessing the industry’s estimate of 4 percent to 5 percent growth for 2012. Sales through May fell 5 percent from a year ago, raising concerns that the world’s fifth largest auto market could shrink for the first time in nearly a decade.