Ford is to close its Cleveland Casting Plant in 2009 and will halt engine production at the nearby Engine Plant #1 for at least a year, beginning in two weeks.

The moves are part of the company’s ‘Way Forward’ plan to transform its North American automotive business.

“The actions are in line with Ford’s commitment to match its manufacturing capacity with actual customer demand,” the automaker said.

“These are difficult actions, and we’re approaching them with great sensitivity because they involve our people,” said Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s vice president of North America Manufacturing. “However, operating an efficient and competitive manufacturing business is a key to our Way Forward plan to transform our business back to sustained profitability.”

Cleveland Casting opened in 1952 and employs 1,100 hourly and 118 salaried workers. It produces cast-iron components for engines for F-Series Super Duty trucks, E-Series vans and Expedition and Lincoln Navigator SUVs.

Ford said plans to axe Cleveland Casting is consistent with the company’s move away from in-house casting. The automaker also has announced that it will end production at its own facilities in Leamington Spa (United Kingdom) and Windsor, Ontario (Canada).

Production at Cleveland Engine #1 is being deferred for approximately one year to capitalise on efficiencies at the Lima (Ohio) Engine Plant, where the company now can produce all its Duratec 3.5-litre V6 engines for the Ford Taurus passenger car and Taurus X crossover, as well as other models. Previously, Cleveland Engine #1 produced the three-litre engine for Five Hundred passenger car and Freestyle crossover models which preceded the Taurus line.

If demand warrants, Ford said, production activities at Cleveland Engine #1 could resume earlier than the planned 12 months.

Opened in 1951, the Cleveland engine plant employs 530 hourly and 47 salaried workers. When it returns to production, the plant is slated to produce the Duratec 3.5-litre engine and a variant for the Lincoln MKZ passenger car, MKX crossover, Taurus, Taurus X, Edge crossover and Mercury Sable passenger car.

In addition, the plant will produce engines for two new vehicles, the Lincoln MKS passenger car and Ford Flex crossover.

Cleveland Engine Plant #2 will continue to operate. Opened in 1955, it currently employs 700 hourly and 85 salaried workers producing two versions of a three-litre engine for the Ford Fusion passenger car and Escape crossover, Mercury Milan passenger car and Mariner crossover, Mazda 6 passenger car and Tribute crossover, as well as for the European Ford Mondeo passenger car and various Jaguar models.