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FORD EMPLOYEES TO BENEFIT FROM VOLVO ACQUISITION

Ford Motor Co.'s Buffalo Stamping Plant in Hamburg will be unaffected by the automaker's plan to purchase the car operations of Volvo AB, company officials said Thursday, but the deal might add a Swedish flavor to the plant's parking lot.

"If Volvo becomes one of Ford's brands . . . we will extend the employee discount (to Volvo)," said John Spelich, Ford director of global news in Dearborn, Mich.

The No. 2 automaker announced plans Thursday to buy Volvo's passenger car operations for $6.45 billion. The Swedish near-luxury autos will have little overlap with Ford's main product line or with its Jaguar unit, analysts said.

Ford's 2,000-job plant in Hamburg makes body stampings for Ford cars and light trucks that are assembled in the United States and Canada. Those tasks shouldn't be affected as Ford acquires Volvo's Europe-based manufacturing sites, officials said.

However, Ford employees and their families are eligible for discounts of $300 to $500 off invoice on some vehicles, dealers said. The employee discount plan would extend to Volvo passenger cars if the acquisition is completed, Spelich said.

However, there are no plans to roll Volvo's dealer network into Ford's existing dealerships, Spelich said, or to offer Volvo-branded products at Ford outlets.

Chuck Miller, sales manager of Culligan Volvo in Williamsville, said Volvo's recent moves toward more stylish, lower-priced cars probably added to the company's appeal.

The average Volvo carries a dealer's invoice of $33,000, putting the retail price out of reach for many, Miller said. But a new sedan and wagon combination coming this fall, the S-40 and V-40, will carry sticker prices of about $25,000, a significant step toward the middle-range of prices, he said.

But Ford dealers said they don't expect the Swedish autos to make a dent in their sales.

"They're really two distinct products, like the Jaguar and Ford," said Marty Bidell, general sales manager at West-Herr Ford in Hamburg.

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