updated 3/20/2008 9:13:30 PM ET 2008-03-21T01:13:30

Ford Motor Co.’s latest buyout and early retirement offers likely will net far fewer hourly workers than the company is seeking, according to numbers provided by union officials at several factories.

If the numbers fall short of the 8,000 that Ford wants, the company may not reach its cost-cutting goals as it restructures to shrink factory capacity to match lower demand for its vehicles. Industry analysts say that could mean more buyout offers or layoffs.

Ford isn’t the only automaker trying to reduce its hourly work force. Chrysler LLC on Thursday said it would extend the deadline or re-offer retirement incentive packages to some hourly workers at most of its North American factories, and General Motors Corp. is rolling out another round of buyout and early retirement offers.

At Ford, union officials at four factories reported buyout and early retirement “take rates” ranging from 2.7 to 7.7 percent. The company offered 10 packages to all 54,000 U.S. hourly employees represented by the United Auto Workers and was hoping around 15 percent would go.

Even at 7.7 percent, the number signing up to take a package and leave Ford would be just over 4,000, far less than Ford had wanted. The deadline to sign up for the packages was midnight Tuesday.

“I know it’s pretty low across the company,” said Jim Stoufer, president of UAW Local 249 at Ford’s Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo, Mo., where only 112, or 2.7 percent, of the local’s 4,100 members took one of the packages.

Union officials at factories in Saline, Wayne and Chicago gave The Associated Press numbers showing their take rates were 7.7 percent or less.

Ford spokeswoman Marcey Evans said the company is still counting workers who took the packages, and numbers won’t be released until next week.

She would not say what Ford would do if the offers don’t attract enough workers to meet company goals.

“Without knowing all the facts, I wouldn’t be able to speculate on what could or could not happen,” she said.

Bob King, UAW vice president and director of its Ford department, said in an e-mail that work force reductions are a last resort and the union wants to work with the automaker “to identify opportunities for insourcing and other ways to grow the business so that Ford continues to be a provider of good-paying manufacturing jobs in the United States.”

Ford had offered $50,000 to $140,000 depending on seniority. Some of the buyout packages pay for education or help workers start their own businesses, while others offer incentives to retire. In 2006, about 33,600 workers left the company by taking similar packages.

Ford is seeking the buyouts because it wants to empty its “jobs bank,” in which laid-off workers get most of their pay. It also wants to close the books this year on 11 former Visteon Corp. plants that it took back from its former parts-making arm, which was spun off as a separate company in 2000.

About 5,200 workers at the plants are eligible to take jobs at factories that Ford plans to keep, and buyouts would open jobs for them.

Ford also would like to get to the point where it can hire new workers. Under its new contract with the UAW, up to 20 percent of its work force can be paid about half the $28 per hour that average UAW members now make.

Ford Chief Executive Alan Mulally said Wednesday that the company can make other moves he wouldn’t specify if it doesn’t get enough workers to leave.

“If we can’t, we have a lot of different mechanisms to keep right-sizing the place,” he told auto industry analysts in New York.

Aaron Bragman, an analyst with the consulting company Global Insight, said Ford can either offer more buyouts or lay off workers.

“They’re trying to get these last few out the door, and they’ve got two ways to do it: A bigger carrot or finally use the stick,” he said.

Dearborn-based Ford still needs to cut workers and factory capacity, said Kevin Tynan, an analyst with New York-based Argus Research.

“This is not simply rolling over the work force to the second-tier wage,” Tynan said. “This is right-sizing capacity, and they’re obviously not going to get there very quickly.”

If Ford has too many workers, that will affect its cash flow and liquidity as it also deals with a declining U.S. auto market, Tynan said.

Ford shares rose 17 cents, or 3.1 percent, to $5.62 Thursday.

At Chrysler, spokesman Ed Saenz said the company is renewing retirement incentive offers for some hourly workers at most of its North American factories, and it will offer buyout and early retirement packages to all 2,600 hourly workers at its Mopar parts distribution operation.

The retirement offers will be open less than a month for retirement-eligible workers. He would not say how many will get the offers or if the company had failed to meet its work force reduction targets from an earlier round of offers.

Chrysler announced in November it planned to cut 8,000 to 10,000 hourly jobs.

Vice Chairman and President Tom LaSorda said Wednesday the company has never missed a job reduction target.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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