Ford is offering its 41,000 US factory workers buyouts and early retirement offers in a bid to reduce its payroll costs as it aims to return to profit by 2011.

The buyouts mark the second round of such offers for Ford workers represented by the United Auto Workers union this year, Reuters reported. About 1,000 workers took up an earlier offer in July.

While Ford was the only US automaker to have avoided bankruptcy in the past year, its relative success has complicated efforts to win concessions from its major union.

The workers have until late January to accept the offer, which includes payouts of up to US$70,000 cash for newer hires to $60,000 cash for veterans already eligible for retirement.

"Despite a strengthening in our business, we still have a surplus in employees," Ford spokesman Mark Truby told the news agency.

Ford did not provide a target for how many workers it expected would take the buyout offers.

Last month, UAW workers overwhelmingly rejected a proposed cost-cutting deal for Ford that would have changed the terms of a labour contract which runs until 2011.

Under the terms of the new buyouts, Ford workers with at least a year of experience will be eligible for a payout of $50,000 plus a new car voucher worth $25,000 or an additional cash payment of $20,000.

Workers eligible for retirement will be able to draw pension payments and take either the $25,000 voucher toward a new Ford vehicle or the $20,000 payment.

In addition, retirement eligible workers with a skilled trade can receive $40,000 cash. Other workers would be paid $20,000 as an incentive to retire.

Workers who accept the offer would leave the company between 1 February and 1 March, Truby said.

By reducing the number of older workers on their payroll, all three US automakers aim to create vacancies to hire new workers at sharply reduced wages when they need to increase production.

New UAW hires at the Detroit automakers will make $14 per hour compared with an average about $28 per hour for older workers under a round of concessions granted by the union.