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Bigger cuts expected: 23,000 more Ford layoffs needed, analysts say

Phoebe Wall Howard

The math doesn't seem to add up.

Analyst Adam Jonas of Morgan Stanley is among those who say Ford Motor Co. cannot reach its stated profit goals for "Smart Redesign" by laying off just 7,000 salaried workers total worldwide by August.

The company must cut "a further" 23,000 salaried jobs in the near term to fulfill its goals, Jonas wrote Tuesday.

"Ford disclosed that the 7k headcount cuts will save $600 million annually, or an average of $86k per worker," said an investment report dated May 21. "Our (calculations) ... require more than a further 23k salaried headcount reductions."

The latest assessment from one of the most recognized equity analysts in New York might explain the tepid response from Wall Street over the past two days, since Ford CEO Jim Hackett sent an email to employees notifying them of the layoff protocol this week.

While Wall Street rewarded General Motors with a spike in stock price after its job cuts, Ford value has remained static. It closed at $10.29 a share on Friday and closed Tuesday at $10.24.

A Ford spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

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“The bottom line is that Ford’s announced job cuts are absurd," said market analyst Jon Gabrielsen, who advises automakers and auto suppliers. "No one who analyzes the Ford situation believes that 7,000 job cuts remotely scratches the surface of what will be required for Ford’s long-term longevity."

He added, "Adam Jonas, the most respected analyst in the business, estimates that Ford will need to cut an additional 23,000 salaried workers through 2022, for a total of 30,000 since late 2018. My own estimate, arrived at separately and before his report came out, indicated an additional 22,000 cuts would be needed."

This week, some 500 workers in metro Detroit are being told of involuntary layoffs in finance, product development, manufacturing and purchasing during meetings with supervisors over a 72-hour period. More workers in information technology and human resources will be notified about layoffs in coming weeks, Ford officials said in emails to employees.

Grim future

“Ford is a rapidly shrinking presence in the global market. Over the past 10 years, Ford has lost a quarter of its global market share – from 7.9% to 5.9%," Gabrielsen said. "That trend of losing 5% of its market share per year will accelerate for the next three years, as the impact of exiting cars in North America and other product eliminations in other regions plays out.”

Jonas indicated that his estimated cut of 23,000 more salaried positions would be a short-term fix. He sees global revenue dropping, too, so the bigger cuts are a conservative assessment for the short term.

Thus, analysts project four times more cuts by Ford to meet the company's stated goals.

Based on the forecast, Morgan Stanley, like Gabrielsen, sees Ford sales declining over the next three years as the automaker exits traditional passenger cars and the industry manages a cyclical downturn.

When Jonas predicted 25,000 cuts a year ago, Ford officials said it was a ridiculously high estimate. Also, analysts note the cuts Ford has made assume average savings of $86,000 per employee when analysts used $100,000. So, assuming $100,000 in compensation costs, Ford would end up at nearly 25,800 jobs cut globally, Gabrielsen emphasized.

'I'm safe'

Workers say they wonder how anyone would know the number of layoffs in Dearborn since Ford has thousands of employees scattered in buildings throughout the city.

A finance employee, who hadn’t slept well Monday in anticipation of the cuts, told the Detroit Free Press on Tuesday afternoon, “I’m safe.”

The worker said colleagues just a few years from retirement were given bad news.

Hackett's email to employees Monday said, "We are now entering the final phase of Smart Redesign. Notifications to employees in North America affected by wave four of Smart Redesign will begin tomorrow (May 21). The majority will be completed by May 24."

He noted that restructuring will continue in Europe, China, South America and elsewhere with hopes of completing the reorganization by the end of August.

"The time and effort from so many of our team members is helping to make us a stronger company, well positioned for the future," Hackett wrote.

His email followed a 6 a.m. posting of a Free Press story that some white-collar workers last week were packing boxes in case they are laid off, with manager meetings scheduled in several departments Tuesday-Thursday this week.

It's not known how many salaried workers Ford has trimmed in recent months. The company had 202,000 employees in 2017 and then 199,000 in 2018, according to its annual reports. It has 196,000 employees globally now, according to recent Ford news releases.

Ford takes pride in being the largest U.S. auto industry employer. The company has approximately 86,000 U.S. workers, with 48,000 in southeast Michigan alone, company officials confirmed.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Bigger cuts expected: 23,000 more Ford layoffs needed, analysts say