Ford has announced the loss of as many as 350 jobs from its Victorian plants, and warned the nation's car industry could see more cuts this year.
The redundancies – planned for November – will affect workers at the company's Geelong and Broadmeadows factories.
Ford spokeswoman Sinead McAlary said changing consumer preferences, rising fuel prices and economic factors had caused a decline in the large car market.
As a result, the company will reduce the speed of its production line by 20 to 25 per cent, slashing car production from 52 units an hour to 40.
This will mean about 285 cars will be produced a day, compared to the current 365, Ms McAlary said.
She said the job losses would be voluntary and evenly split between the Geelong and Broadmeadows plants.
Ms McAlary said Ford anticipated the whole car industry would experience a downturn for the rest of the year.
“We expect the total industry to soften for the second half of this year,” she told AAP. “It started in July and we anticipate that we'll see more of these actions across the industry for the rest of this year.”
But Ms McAlary said the company planned to hire about 300 new staff when it started production of the Ford Focus in 2011.
That will add another 40,000 units back into production, she said.
“What we've said previously is that to cater for that we'll have to hire approximately 300 (staff) but unfortunately the action we have to take now is to manage the business in the interim.”
Ms McAlary said Ford would work with the union in line with the agreement with employees to manage the redundancies.
The new cuts follows Ford's announcement earlier this year that 600 jobs would be lost when local six-cylinder engine production ends in 2010.
The decision comes at a turbulent time for Australia's automotive industry: Holden has already axed 1,100 jobs in Melbourne and Adelaide.