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NedCar confirms plans to downsize

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BY Bruce Mutsvairo

AMSTERDAM (AP) _ Mitsubishi Motor Corp.'s Dutch car-making unit NedCar is expected to slash ``a few hundred jobs'' in a reorganization aimed at cutting production costs, a spokeswoman said on Monday.

A company statement said Mitsubishi ordered its Dutch operation to downsize to one shift as it closes the assembly line for the four-seat forFour model of DaimlerChrysler AG's Smart car, keeping production only of the Mitsubishi's Colt.

Earlier Monday, workers downed tools to express concern over the plans to discontinue production of the Smart model, and threatened more labour sanctions to come.

``What action would you expect from the employees? We will continue to press ahead with strikes,'' workers representative Jean Wouters told Dutch Television.

Company spokeswoman Liz Tans said it was uncertain how many workers would be affected by the restructuring, but local media put the figure at about 1,000.

Tans said negotiations would continue, but ``it's clear a few hundred people will lose their jobs.''

``Mitsubishi Motors Corp. has requested NedCar to draft a restructuring plan for a one-shift operation, based on a current production volume of Mitsubishi Colt, in the context of intended smart forFour exit,'' said a NedCar statement.

Production is set to resume Tuesday while a meeting between the company's supervisory board, union representatives and management will be held on April 11, said Tans.

DaimlerChrysler has been wrestling with the Smart brand's loss-making minicar unit since last year.

The German-U.S. auto manufacturer announced last week it will terminate production of the model, which is assembled at NedCar's unit in Born, about 190 kilometres south of Amsterdam.

The Born factory has been producing about 40,000 Smart cars a year for DaimlerChrysler. Mutsubishi says it hopes to sell 80,000 Colts in Europe this year.

NedCar's 3,000 employees want the carmaker to produce another vehicle to preserve jobs.

NedCar, which has cut 1,800 jobs over the past two years, was established by Mitsubishi and the Sweden's AB Volvo in 1991. Mitsubishi became the sole shareholder in 2001.

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NedCar confirms plans to downsize
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