By Drew Johnson
Friday, Mar 9th, 2012 @ 4:19 pm
 
Facing steep losses, Mazda has a announced a new plant to trim its United States workforce. Mazda will offer employees voluntary buyouts, but says it may be forced to hand out pink slips in an effort to cut costs.

In a memo obtained by Automotive News, Mazda CEO Jim O'Sullivan informed employees of the impending staff reductions. In the memo, dated March 7, O'Sullivan said Mazda is "in the midst of an extremely challenging business environment" and "it has become necessary for us to reexamine our business to accelerate further cost improvements."

Although Mazda's North American sales have actually increased 48 percent this year, the Japanese automaker has struggled in all other global markets. Mazda has also been hit hard by the rising value of the yen as most of its vehicles are produced in Japan. For the fiscal year ending March 31, Mazda is expected to post a $1.2 billion loss.

As part of the plan Mazda will offer a "voluntary" package to employees that includes separation pay, a lump-sum payment based on years of service and help with finding a new job. If that process fails to yield enough job cuts, Mazda will move to "involuntary" separations. Those workers terminated via the involuntary method will not receive the "enhanced benefits" of those that apply for the voluntary package.

Mazda has 701 U.S. employees.