Ford's Cologne plant is operating shortened working hours because of slow demand for four-litre engines produced for the US market.

750 workers will be affected by the cuts which will last from today (11 March) until the end of the month, reported Automobilwoche. Workers will receive correspondingly lower pay than normal.

A spokesperson said that the short-time working had been agreed with works council and lasts until the end of March. There are no assurances that production will return to normal in April. Ford is currently looking for replacement work and moving workers to other plants. The current works agreement does not allow any redundancies until 2011.

Cologne builds V6 engines for the US-built Ranger light truck, Explorer SUV and Mustang car. Last year 267,000 units were produced.

Other areas of the plant, which also assembles the European Ford Fiesta and Fusion, are not affected.

Head of the plant's works council, Dieter Hinkelmann, expressed concerns about the low volumes at the plant last month. At its peak Cologne shipped 680,000 engines to the US a year. This year that figure is expected to be 200,000 at the most.