Subaru-Isuzu Automotive plans to lay off 215 workers, or 4.8% of its work force, due to slumping US sales of Isuzu sport-utility vehicles, Associated Press (AP) reported.

Company officials told AP that they would idle the truck assembly line at the Lafayette plant for two months, curtailing production of 6,000 Rodeo, Rodeo Sport and Axiom SUVs. Production of better-selling Subaru models would continue.

AP said Isuzu has access to half the production capacity at the plant, which was built in the late 1980s with Subaru owner Fuji Heavy Industries, and, to the end of June, had sold 28,763 vehicles in the United States, down from 50,434 in the first half of 2001.

Layoffs are scheduled to begin on September 2 and will be reviewed after six months, AP said.

"The way the economy is right now, it's not an optimistic picture," Subaru-Isuzu vice president of human resources and corporate affairs and general counsel Tom Easterday told AP.

AP said that, earlier this year, Subaru-Isuzu eliminated overtime, cut 60 temporary positions and reduced production in May, June and July, along with other cost-cutting measures at the plant which employs about 2,200 production and 900 salaried workers.

Last week, Isuzu said it would halve US SUV ouput to 40,000 vehicles.