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Written by: Staff
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DETROIT, Apr 20 (Reuters) Ford Motor Co. said on Wednesday it expected to take charges in 2006 of $2.4 billion for previously announced plant closings designed to help reverse losses in the automaker's North American operations.

The charges come in addition to $1 billion in charges Ford announced in March for the cost of cuts in its hourly workforce and writing off the value of plants and equipment, said spokeswoman Becky Stanch.

Ford has said it will shut 14 plants and cut up to 30,000 workers in order to shed costs it can no longer afford as its share of the U.S. auto market declines.

Ford's U.S. sales fell almost 3 percent in the first quarter of 2006, adding pressure on the automaker to meet its goal of ending the decline in its market share this year without resorting to costly discount programs.

In a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Wednesday, Ford said the additional $2.4 billion in pretax charges included about $1.7 billion for expected layoffs and a provision of its union contract that guarantees continued payments of wages and benefits to dismissed workers.

That so-called jobs bank program, which dates back to 1984, guarantees that Ford will pay nearly full wages and benefits to workers whose jobs have been eliminated at least until the current contract with the United Auto Workers expires in September 2007.

Ford also said it would take a noncash charge of about $425 million related to pension costs associated with its planned plant closures and another $280 million for other facility-related costs.

Ford, which reports first-quarter results on Friday, did not specify during which accounting periods it would book the new restructuring charges.

Earlier this month, Ford said it would close its St. Paul, Minnesota, and Norfolk, Virginia, assembly plants by 2008 as part of a broader restructuring plan, dubbed the ''Way Forward.'' The restructuring is designed to reverse a $1.6 billion loss last year in Ford's core North American operations.

Ford had an 18 percent share of the U.S. market for cars and trucks in 2005, down from just over 23 percent in 2001.

Over the same period, the annual total for unit sales has been almost flat, near 17 million.

Excluding its luxury brands, such as Jaguar and Volvo, Ford's 2005 market share was the company's lowest since the early 1920s.

REUTERS CS HS0905

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