WARREN, Mich. -- Chrysler said Friday it will make another round of early retirement and buyout offers to factory workers in the Detroit area to reduce the number who are on indefinite layoff due to slumping sales.
Employees will learn about the offers this month, company officials said during an event at a Warren, Mich., factory where the automaker celebrated the launch of the new Dodge Ram pickup.
It wasn't immediately known how many workers will be eligible. Chrysler has about 45,000 hourly workers worldwide.
United Auto Workers Vice President General Holiefield said the offers are similar to past packages offered by the company, but this round has a new education option offered in conjunction with the state of Michigan.
The education options include health benefits and cash that would allow a worker to go back to school for retraining while still being able to support a family, said Al Iacobelli, vice president for employee relations.
The company may expand the offers to all of its plants in order to clear out the company's layoff rolls, Iacobelli said.
"We'll see," he said after the Ram event. "Our goal is to get everybody back to work."
At all of its factories, Chrysler has about 2,000 people on layoff, he said. He didn't know how many were on layoff in the Detroit area.
Chrysler Vice Chairman Jim Press said at the event that the U.S. economy probably won't improve until late 2009 or 2010. He said the economy has reached a point where bad news is coming to an end, but good news hasn't started yet.
"We're probably in this for another year, year and a half," he said.
Press said Chrysler will be ready by the time the economy improves because it has right-sized its business and has seven new models coming out by then. He would not identify the models except for a subcompact to be built in conjunction with Nissan Motor Co.
"We'll be able to rise when all boats go up with the ocean," he said.