Compiled By Jill Jusko Ford Motor Co.'s efforts to return to profitability include the elimination of 35,000 workers globally, five North American plant closures and the discontinuation of four models, the company announced Jan. 11. The workforce reduction in North America will total nearly 22,000 -- including 15,000 hourly workers, 5,000 salaried workers and 1,500 agency employees. At least 3,000 of the hourly workforce cuts and 3,500 of the salaried-position reductions already occurred in 2001. The five plants slated to close are in Ontario; St. Louis; Cleveland; Edison, N.J.; and Dearborn, Mich. The U.S. plants are unlikely to close until union contracts expire in 2003. Additionally, Ford says it has identified no new products for two other plants, and major downsizing and shift reductions at 11 more. The reductions are expected to reduce capacity by about 1 million units by mid-decade, the company said. Ford also will discontinue making the Mercury Cougar, Mercury Villager, Lincoln Continental and Ford Escort later this year. "Although the actions we're outlining today are difficult, they are necessary steps to lead Ford back to a strong financial and competitive position," said Nick Scheele, president and COO. As part of the restructuring, the company will take an after-tax charge to fourth-quarter earnings of $4.1 billion. Ford releases its fourth-quarter and full-year 2001 financial results on Jan. 17. The company employs 345,000 workers.