Ford met salaried cost cuts, to cut more if needed

DETROIT (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co F.N has reached its goal of cutting salaried costs by 15 percent in North America under its overall restructuring and is prepared to cut more if necessary, a top executive said on Wednesday.

The sign outside a Ford dealership in Broomfield, Colorado July 23, 2008. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

“We had to take some tough decisions, we got through it,” Mark Fields, Ford’s president of the Americas, told reporters at an event focused on the automaker’s 2009 models. He did not disclose the exact number of salaried job cuts.

“We are going to continue to look at our structure and evaluate that versus the external environment,” Fields said. “We always continue to look at our structure and what it means to be competitive.”

Ford, which posted an $8.7 billion loss in the second quarter, has unveiled plans to introduce six European vehicle models to the North American market and to convert pickup truck plant capacity to car production.

The restructuring plan, a continuation of Ford’s efforts in recent years, comes as executives see a migration in demand toward smaller vehicles in the United States due to high gasoline prices as permanent.

Ford’s total engine and transmission investments over the next couple of years will be unprecedented, Fields said.

Ford has focused on gas engines such as the EcoBoost, to increase fuel economy, but diesels, hybrids and other engine types will “get their fair share” of the spending, he said.

Fields said it would be too soon to predict a bottom in the U.S. auto market, but added that Ford would be ready to take advantage of a turn when it occurs.

U.S. auto sales fell to a 16-year low in July, landing hardest on the larger trucks and SUVs and on U.S.-based automakers.

“The tools we have to monitor the market on a daily and weekly basis are very very good,” Fields said. “That’s why we were able to get ahead of the curve and take some production out early on ... and when we start to see a bottom and we start to see it come up we will also get a read on that as well.”

Fields said there are many conflicting issues hitting the customer at this point that make it hard to predict.

Earlier this year, Ford delayed the launch of a redesigned F-150 pickup truck by two months into late fall due to the slow sales of its current version. Fields said the launch plan of late fall remains on track.

Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Braden Reddall