Ford has announced that its Twin Cities Assembly Plant in St. Paul, Minn., and the Norfolk Assembly Plant in Virginia will be idled in 2008 as part of the company's 'Way Forward' plan to restore North American automotive operations to profitability no later than 2008.

The announcement came as part of a 'Way Forward Update'.

The company claims that it will be able to maintain its production capacity and 'undisputed leadership' of the full-size pickup truck market with fewer plants, thanks to flexible manufacturing.

Ford says it is on track to have 82% of its North American assembly facilities flexible by 2008, up from 38% in 2004 and ahead of the previously announced target of 75%. 

As part of the Way Forward plan to restore Ford's US operation to profitability, Ford said in January that it would idle and cease manufacturing operations at 14 plants, including seven assembly plants.

In addition to Norfolk and Twin Cities, the plants announced to date include Wixom (Mich.) Assembly, St. Louis Assembly, Atlanta Assembly, Windsor (Ontario) Casting and Batavia (Ohio) Transmission.

"A decision to end production at a plant is not an easy one and I'm deeply mindful of the impact this decision has on Ford employees, families and communities," said Mark Fields, Ford Motor Company executive president and president of The Americas, in a statement.

"Unfortunately, these are necessary steps we must take to move the business forward.

"The Way Forward is a long-term strategy and journey," Fields continued. "But we are very satisfied with early progress and momentum, and we remain committed to all of the targets established in what remains a long-term strategy and journey."

The Norfolk plant, which opened in 1925, currently employs 2,275 hourly and 158 salaried workers. The Twin Cities plant, which also opened in 1925, employs 1,750 hourly and 135 salaried workers. These staff reductions are part of the 25,000-30,000 job workforce reduction announced as part of the Way Forward plan.

Future product plans surrounding Ford compact pickups will be announced closer to the end of Ford Ranger production in Twin Cities in 2008, Ford said.

Ford also said that it remains committed to building a new low-cost manufacturing site for the future, as the company announced in January.

See also: Ford axing seven assembly plants and 25-30,000 more jobs