By Brian Sanders, The Republic

   SEYMOUR - Aisin U.S.A. Manufacturing intends to cut at least 20 percent of its salaried work force to combat a sluggish economy and declining automobile sales.

    Company officials hope a "voluntary exit" program will accomplish the goal, but said employees could be let go at the end of next month if the voluntary effort falls short.

    In an effort to cut costs, the company already has reduced its work force by about 300 employees, primarily by laying off temporary help and through natural attrition of full-time staff.

    Aisin, which employs more than 1,600, reported that its 2008 sales were about 15 percent less than those in 2007.

    Projections for 2009 call for another 15 percent drop in sales from 2008 figures, according to a statement from Keith A. Warf, Aisin's executive vice president of operations.

   On Monday Aisin introduced a "voluntary exit" program for salaried employees who either are nearing retirement or wish to seek employment elsewhere. The program features an enhanced severance pay period and extended insurance benefits.

    Salaried employees were given 45 days to consider the option.

   "At this time, our objective is to reduce the salaried work force by a minimum of 20 percent or 50 members," Warf said. "Depending on the results of the voluntary program, we may regretfully be forced to revert to involuntary separations by January end." 

    In an effort to cut costs, Aisin also has begun seeking locally made parts as opposed to the Japanese parts the company currently uses. 

    Aisin also plans to internalize some parts currently supplied by other U.S. companies. 

    "We don't expect a significant increase in vehicle volumes until late 2009 or early 2010," Warf said. 

    "We are receiving customer notifications on a daily basis, informing us of additional down days or weeks during the first quarter of 2009," Warf said. 

    Aisin is one of Jackson County's largest employers, building automobile parts primarily for Toyota brands.


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