updated 9/29/2006 8:21:41 AM ET 2006-09-29T12:21:41

Ford Motor Co.'s financing arm said Thursday that it would cut about 2,000 salaried jobs in the United States and Canada as it consolidates operations.

Ford Motor Credit said it would fold its 59 U.S. branches into six existing service centers by the end of 2007. A similar structure is being considered for Canada, which has seven branches and one service center, the company said.

The 2,000 job cuts — which the company said would be achieved through attrition, early retirements and layoffs — amount to a 23 percent reduction of its 8,600-person work force in the U.S. and Canada.

Ford Credit spokeswoman Chris Solie said the job cuts will be completed by the end of 2007.

"As a company with strong business fundamentals, we believe this new structure will further strengthen our operational effectiveness," Chairman and Chief Executive Mike Bannister said in a statement. "Our strong collections processes will continue while we enhance our originations of automotive financing contracts. The North American restructuring also will provide us with the flexibility and scale necessary to adapt to any changes in business conditions."

The six consolidated centers will manage all back-office functions, such as checking customers' credit, Solie said. Sales employees who work directly with dealers will remain in local markets.

Solie said the job cuts are completely separate from Ford Motor's own restructuring. The automaker said earlier this month that it would slash 10,000 white-collar jobs by the end of 2008 and offer buyouts to all unionized employees.

Ford Credit has restructured operations in North America and several other countries over the past decade. Since 2003, it has closed about 110 branches in the U.S. and Canada.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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