There was a time in this country when a job at a large automobile manufacturing plant was about as secure a position as one could ever want. The demand for automobiles -- newer and better ones -- would always be with us. Pay was good and benefits were even better.

What most of us didn't count on was the intense competition from other manufacturers in other countries and the inability to quickly turn around the product line to meet customers' needs.

Ford Motor Company this week announced it would close 14 plants and eliminate up to 30,000 jobs by 2012. The company said its long-awaited "Way Forward" plan would bring it back to profitability. Ford's announcement comes on the heels of the General Motors announcement late last year that it will close a dozen plants. That will idle thousands of workers at plants from Oklahoma City through Tennessee.

Barring some sort of "Hail Mary," the Oklahoma City plant will close in February, idling more than 2,000 hourly workers.

An analyst on National Public Radio this week said American automobile companies are driven to produce results that will please stockholders more than pleasing customers. That thinking has cost them market share, he said.

GM, the world's largest automaker, lost nearly $5 billion in the fourth quarter of 2005 alone. It was their first unprofitable year since 1992.

Ford's cuts will idle about a quarter of its workforce. GM's cuts will eliminate about 22 percent of unionized workers. Thousands of other businesses that supplied the plants will also close.

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