Ford of Canada Ltd. is cutting 500 jobs at its Oakville, ON, Canada, assembly plant in the wake of declining sales in the U.S.

The plant, which builds the Ford Edge and Flex, and Lincoln MKX cross/utility vehicles, will lose the third shift at its paint and body shops, effectively eliminating the third shift.

In July, Ford announced it was canceling plans to add a third shift at the final assembly area of the plant.

Ford spokeswoman Lauren More says the move is in response to a softening automotive market, particularly in the U.S.

The job reductions are not expected to result in layoffs, as Ford first will offer retirement packages to eligible employees, More says, adding she is not sure how many of the 3,000 workers at the plant are eligible for retirement. The packages include a one-time payment of $75,000 and $35,000 toward the purchase of a new Ford vehicle.

More declines to say whether layoffs will occur should the retirement packages fail to receive enough takers.

“It’s too early to speculate, we’re going to first offer the retirement incentives,” she says.

The plant is to begin producing the Lincoln MKT CUV next year. More says no decision has been made as to whether MKT output will warrant the reinstatement of a third shift at the plant.

The Canadian Auto Workers union was notified of the shift reduction prior to the announcement, More says. Calls to the CAW were not immediately returned.

bpope@wardsauto.com