Saturday, December 22, 2007

BMW laying off thousands of workers

BMW, facing rising costs and resurgent competition from rivals like Mercedes, plans to dismiss several thousand workers, its first significant layoff in at least a decade, the company said Friday.

The cuts, which will fall mainly in Germany, are part of a sweeping campaign to restore profits at Bayerische Motoren Werke, which has hit an uncharacteristic rough patch after years of being the most successful German carmaker.

The company declined to confirm a report on the Internet edition of Der Spiegel that 8,000 jobs would be eliminated. A spokesman, Bill McAndrews, said BMW would not disclose numbers until early next year.

Layoffs have become common at German carmakers in the past few years, with Mercedes, Volkswagen and the Opel unit of General Motors all cutting thousands of workers. But BMW has had the opposite problem, trying to churn out more cars without bloating its payroll.

A large number of those affected will be employees with temporary contracts, McAndrews said. BMW will also offer voluntary buyouts and negotiate more flexible working hours with its unions. Layoffs are unlikely in the United States, where BMW is increasing production.

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