updated 8/6/2008 8:18:19 PM ET 2008-08-07T00:18:19

A top Ford Motor Co. executive said Wednesday the company met its goal of cutting 15 percent of its North American salaried costs by Aug. 1.

Mark Fields, Ford's president of the Americas, wouldn't say how many salaried workers will leave the company, but he confirmed that the company met its goal. Several thousand of the company's 23,800 white-collar workers in North America were expected to leave through a combination of involuntary layoffs and normal attrition.

Before the latest round of cuts, the automaker said it had trimmed its white-collar work force in North America by 10,800 since the end of 2005, mostly through attrition, early retirement offers and voluntary buyouts.

Ford has been cutting jobs and scaling back U.S. production as conditions in the U.S. market continue to deteriorate. U.S. auto sales were down 11 percent in the first seven months of this year, and July sales were the worst in 16 years.

Ford has lost $23.9 billion in the past 2 1/2 years and has had to mortgage its assets to stay in business as the U.S. auto market has shifted away from profitable trucks and sport utility vehicles to more fuel-efficient models.

Fields said he can't predict when the industry will hit bottom, but he said the company is confident it is adequately monitoring the situation and will make further changes if needed.

"There's a lot of conflicting business conditions out there, things that are just affecting the customer," he said, citing the recent drop in oil prices but continuing troubles in the banking sector.

Fields spoke at a media event to introduce Ford's 2009 lineup, including the new Lincoln MKS sedan and Ford Flex crossover. He said internal measures and independent studies by J.D. Power and Associates and others confirm the company has made vast improvements in quality.

For example, Fields said, Ford has reduced its warranty costs by $1.2 billion in the last 18 months, and its newly launched vehicles now have fewer quality problems than the outgoing models they're replacing.

"Good is not good enough for our products going forward," he said.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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