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2012-11-08 08:47

VOICING THEIR CONCERNS: Policemen stand in front of Ford employees protesting outside the gates of Ford's Cologne plant in Germany. Image: AFP

BERLIN, Germany - Ford, which plans to close three factories and scrap 6200 jobs in Europe to stanch losses, said on Wednesday, November 7, 2012 it cannot rule out further capacity cuts in the region if the auto market deteriorates further.

While Ford has no current plans for further capacity cuts - which can range from dropping a factory shift to closing a plant - the automaker is monitoring Europe's market and economic outlook very closely, CEO Alan Mulally said.

PROTESTS TURN VIOLENT


Speaking at a conference in Berlin, Mulally said: "That will determine what we do - if we do anything more. The most important thing is to match our production to the level of demand."

About 170 protesters burned tyres and threw fireworks at police officers outside a Ford plant in Cologne, Germany, during a Wednesday meeting between management and Ford's European Works Council.

The protest comes about two weeks after Ford outlined its restructuring plans for Europe, where the company's losses could surpass the equivalent of R26-billion over the next two years.

A group of protesters in Cologne, where Ford of Europe is based, stormed the Ford factory grounds, smashing windows and injuring a Ford employee, police said. Six people were arrested and three police officers were injured.

Ford said in a statement, "While we understand the impact that our European business transformation plan has on people and respect their right to peaceful demonstrations, we are disappointed that some of the protesters used force to gain entry to our facilities in Cologne."

The situation in Europe remains "very volatile," Mulally said in Berlin. "We don't know whether it will stabilise or hit bottom or not because it's continuing to decrease."

The second-largest US carmaker said in October 2012 it would shutter a British van factory in Southampton and an associated stamping plant in 2013, and close a bigger site in Genk, Belgium, the following year.

The European cutbacks by Ford are expected to generate savings of R4.3-billion annually by 2015. The automaker aims to make a profit in the region around that time.

"We needed to move decisively, also to be able to invest in new products," Mulally said. "If you don't do that, you continue to lose money and will be gone."

Ford rival General Motors, which is forging an alliance with struggling French automaker PSA Peugeot Citroen, remains mired in talks with Germany's IG Metall labor union over plans to cut jobs at its Opel division and close a plant in Germany in 2017.

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