Massive job cuts and plant closures are expected following a Ford announcement later today.

There have been suggestions that to 29,000 jobs could be lost and as many as 10 plants shuttered.

"We're going to do what we have to do. It's just very, very sad," Bill Ford, the car giant's chairman and chief executive reportedly told Time magazine ahead of the announcement.

Reports claim most of the job cuts would occur over the next five years and would reduce the work force by almost a quarter.

The plan, dubbed the "Way Forward," is also expected to include product changes and cuts to Ford's salaried ranks. Ford has about 87,000 hourly workers and 35,000 salaried workers in North America, according to CNN.

"It's going to be painful for some people," the automaker's chairman and CEO Bill Ford said earlier this month at the Detroit motor show.

CNN said the assembly plants believed to be most at risk for closure are in St. Louis, Missouri; St. Paul, Minnesota; Atlanta, Georgia; Wixom, Michigan; St. Thomas, Ontario; and Cuatitlan, Mexico.

Those plants could be targeted because of their age, the products they make, their lack of flexibility or other factors, the news channel noted.

CNN said state governments have been scrambling to offer tax credits and other incentives to keep Ford from closing their facilities.

The Daily Telegraph noted that, in the last 10 years Ford's share of the US market has fallen from 26.4% to 17.4%.

This is the second major Ford restructuring in just over four years - the company announced five plant closings and 35,000 job cuts in 2001.

The Associated Press said a recent Harbour Consulting report showed that Ford used 79% of its US production capacity in 2005, down from 86% a year earlier. Toyota in contrast was at full capacity - and is planning expansions.