Welcome to the Ford Motor Co. benefits "cafeteria." Beginning June 1, its 45,000 salaried employees will be eligible for a flexible benefits program.

Each employee will put together his or her own benefits package from a broad selection. To pay for the program, Ford credits each person with a specific amount of money, consisting of fixed amounts and additional credits, called "Bonus Flexdollars," which will be linked to corporate performance. That program is based on a return-on-sales formula, with payouts ranging from $0 to $600. During good times Ford would then contribute more toward benefit costs.

The new medical plan has a higher deductible but no monthly payment and a preventative care allowance.

Salaried workers can choose this or other health-care options. Those that have coverage elsewhere get $1,400 cash or credit toward other benefits.

Chrysler Corp. introduced a a cafeteria plan for its 17,000 salaried people in 1990; General Motors Corp. began one in 1993 for its 68,000 salaried workers.

Look for the Big Three to ask hourly workers to accept similar programs during bargaining with the United Auto Workers union next year.