Dollars & Sense

Ford hopes buyouts lead to profitability

Ford Motor Co. will offer buyout and early retirement packages to 54,000 U.S. hourly workers, or 93 percent of its hourly work force, in an effort to cut costs and replace those leaving with lower-paid workers. Thursday's announcement came as Ford said it narrowed its losses in 2007 but warned that the outlook for U.S. sales in 2008 remains grim. Ford President and Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally said the automaker also will trim salaried staff, mostly through attrition but possibly through layoffs, as it tries to adjust to a slumping U.S. market. Ford said its U.S. market share will be at the low end of a 14 percent to 15 percent range in 2008, down from 14.8 percent in 2007 and 26 percent a decade ago. Ford fell behind Toyota Motor Corp. in U.S. sales last year, ceding its 75-year position as the nation's No. 2 auto seller behind General Motors Corp. Mulally said Ford remains on track to make a profit in 2009, but is expecting another loss in 2008.

Newspaper Web sites grow in viewership

U.S. newspapers' online audiences grew about 6 percent last year, an industry group reported Thursday, a rare bit of good news for an industry struggling to adapt as readers and advertising dollars continue to migrate online. Web sites run by newspapers had an average of 60 million unique U.S. visitors per month in 2007, up from 56.4 million the year before, according to data released by the Newspaper Association of America and compiled by Nielsen Online, a Web audience measurement agency owned by The Nielsen Co. Because of the growth in the online audience, however, the online reach of newspapers grew somewhat less, with 38 percent of all active online users visiting newspaper

Web sites last year, up from 36 percent in 2006. Many newspapers, including The Bee, have been adding online features such as video and blogs to lure more readers and compete with other outlets of information online, including blogs and portals such as Yahoo Inc.

Hershey halts candy that looks like drugs

The Hershey Co. is halting production of Ice Breakers Pacs in response to criticism that the mints look too much like illegal street drugs, the company's president and chief executive officer said Thursday. Ice Breakers Pacs, which first hit store shelves in November, are nickel-sized dissolvable pouches with a powdered sweetener inside. The pouches come in blue or orange and bear the Ice Breakers logo. Members of Philadelphia's police narcotics squad said the mints closely resemble tiny heat-sealed bags used to sell powdered street drugs. They charged that the consequences could be serious if, for example, a child familiar with the mints found a package of cocaine.