American Axle Mfg. & Holdings Inc. says a 81-day strike by United Auto Workers union members at the parts supplier’s U.S. locations in Michigan and New York cost it $370 million in 2008 sales and about 250,000 vehicle units of production.

During a conference call today with Wall Street analysts and members of the media, AAM also estimates 2008 sales of between $2.5 billion and $2.6 billion, $750 million short of the $3.25 billion in revenues it booked in 2007.

The company bases the guidance on a seasonally adjusted annual sales rate in the U.S. of roughly 15 million vehicles and a 30% reduction in truck builds by AAM customers this year.

However, the supplier estimates its content per vehicle will rise 4.5% to 5% this year, which comes on the heels of a 5% content uptick, per vehicle, in 2007. AAM declines to comment on its 2008 earnings potential or sales and production estimates for 2009.

AAM also says the new 4-year labor agreement ratified by the UAW last week will trim its workforce by about 2,000 people over the next 12 months.

In addition, the agreement slashes the average hourly wage 50%, to between $30 and $45 an hour from $73.48, including benefits. AAM will close an already idle driveline plant in Buffalo, NY, and forging facilities in Tanawanda, NY, and Detroit.

The company estimates a total reduction in structural costs of nearly $300 million.

An attrition program will include buyouts of up to $140,000, retirement incentives no higher than $55,000 and a buydown program for remaining workers that will average a total of $85,000 to $95,000 over three installments concluding in 2010.

AAM Co-founder, Chairman and CEO Richard Dauch calls negotiations with the UAW, which began more than 2.5 years ago, “most difficult and therefore lengthy.”

He says a late decision by General Motors Corp., which was reeling from a strike-induced parts shortage, to help fund the buyout/buydown program with a $215 million contribution “critical” to concluding the negotiations.

“The UAW demanded that AAM fund buyouts and buydowns much higher than AAM’s UAW-represented competitors,” he says in the call. “AAM simply could not justify buyouts and buydowns” at those levels.

Throughout the process, Dauch says AAM remained “clear and direct” in its communications with the UAW.

The company centered its discussion on its need for a market-competitive labor agreement, as well as the demand for improvements in operational flexibility and efficiency to match its domestic competitors by cutting the number of job classifications by 90%.

“We have accomplished all of those goals,” Dauch says. The new agreement addresses “a recent and rapid deterioration” of the light-truck market in the U.S., a segment that occupies a majority of the supplier’s business. “It is a market reality.”

AAM also announces today it has booked $1.4 billion of new business between 2009 and 2013. Two-thirds of which will come before 2011, the supplier says.

Reflecting a trend in the market that is moving away from pickups and SUVs, almost half of the new business relates to rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive applications for more economical passenger cars and cross/utility vehicles.

About 85% of the work will go to AAM facilities outside of the U.S., the company says. Customers include Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., Renault SA, Audi AG, Brilliance China Automotive Holdings Ltd. and Chery Automobile Co. Ltd.

But AAM also will retain between much of its business with former parent GM in the timeframe, which includes support of 10 truck programs and eight passenger-car and CUV launch programs over six continents.