Ford Says 8,000 Hourly Workers Left in January

About 8,000 U.S. hourly workers left struggling automaker Ford Motor in January after taking buyout offers, said Mark Fields, president of the Americas and overseer of Ford's restructuring.

"We've had a number of folks, upwards of 8,000 actually, hourly workers who have left the company in January and the transition in the plants is going very smoothly," Fields told reporters at a dinner ahead of the Chicago Auto Show.

Fields said the massive restructuring of Ford is "on track and on time" with plans to cut costs and to improve its entire vehicle line by the end of the decade.

Ford posted a company record net loss of $12.7 billion in 2006 amid market share losses in North America and is in the opening stages of a four-year turnaround plan to cut 16 plants and up to 45,000 jobs.

About 38,000 union workers accepted buyout offers for the restructuring. It expects to complete the cuts by September 1.

The automaker also expects to cut thousands of salaried workers. The period for voluntary cuts is just closing and Ford has not yet determined whether it will need to resort to involuntary salaried job cuts.

Fields also said Ford has been meeting monthly with United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger and Vice President Bob King to talk about the business. Current UAW contracts with the U.S.-based automakers expire in September.