The second-biggest carmaker in the United States will reportedly cut thousands of jobs later this week. On Friday, the Ford Motor Company will announce a restructuring plan aimed at making the automaker profitable again.

In recent months, the Ford Motor Company has laid off more than 5,000 workers and stopped matching many of its employees' retirement plan contributions in an effort to save money.

On Friday, company officials will announce sweeping changes they hope will improve Ford's financial standing. In Detroit Monday, Ford Chief Operating Office Nick Scheele declined to say how many people might lose their jobs in the restructuring. "Clearly, it is going to be difficult but I have no numbers and we would not go ahead of an official announcement and speculate, really," he said.

Some news reports are predicting as many as 20,000 job cuts for Ford. Mr. Scheele does say the restructuring plan will be global, and include Ford's operations in Japan.

Ford saw its sales drop about six percent last year, and has announced expected losses of 50 cents per share of company stock for the last three months of 2001.

U.S. automakers did see sales jump during the last couple of months after announcing interest-free financing, but those promotions have ended and analysts say Ford has to cut its vehicle production. Ford's Nick Scheele says the company will not cut back development or introduction of new vehicles. "We have got five of the top-ten best-sellers in the U.S. market this year, so we are not in desperate shape. But clearly, we need new product, we need it with quality, and we need it to represent value to the consumer."

Mr. Scheele says Ford's contract with the United Auto Workers union forbids closing entire plants. He says the company will work with UAW officials at individual plants to reduce production.

Ford executives are expected to announce the company's restructuring plan after the company's board of director holds its monthly meeting on Friday. Whatever is announced is expected to be only the first phase of restructuring at Ford.