Visteon, the bankrupt parts maker once owned by Ford, is seeking court permission to stop paying health and life insurance costs for up to 7,000 retired workers.

The company told a US bankruptcy court that the programme will cost it US$31m this year unless Visteon wins permission to end it

Company attorney Steven McCormick told the court hearing that Visteon had gone to "extreme lengths" to avoid making this request but the changes are needed to help give it a chance to survive bankruptcy.

McCormick added: "Everyone involved in this painful decision is completely aware of the hardship."

About a third of the employees covered affected are not yet eligible for government health-insurance programs for the elderly, he said.

Visteon filed for bankruptcy in May, listing assets of US$4.58bn and debt of US$5.32bn in Chapter 11 court documents.