Lagging North American heavy-truck and automobile production is forcing ArvinMeritor Inc. to slash 1,500 jobs, or about 4% of its 36,500-member workforce.

The Troy, MI-based supplier announced the move last week along with a 56% drop in fiscal fourth quarter earnings but declined to comment on where or when the cuts will occur.

ArvinMeritor, like many auto parts makers, has struggled in recent months due to falling demand for replacement parts and Ford Motor Co.'s reduced production related to the Firestone tire recall. And, like many other suppliers, it has been hurt during the quarter by a weakened euro against the dollar.

The company says it expects to see a first-quarter charge of $39 million, or 57 cents per share, due to the job cuts and hopes to see pretax savings of about $25 million in fiscal 2001 and $50 million the following year.

This latest round of cuts comes close on the heels of ArvinMeritor's earlier decision to fire 240 workers and eliminate another 100 vacant positions to reduce costs. ArvinMeritor says it expects North American heavy truck output in fiscal 2001 to decline by as much as 30% in North America and 10% in Europe.

In other supplier news: Eagle-Picher Automotive's Hillsdale Div. will produce transmission oil pump assemblies for Ford Motor Co.'s rear-drive passenger cars, sport/utility vehicles and F-Series pickups. Motorola Inc. says its Timeport voice activated digital phone system will be available on all '01 Jaguar vehicles. Ventra Group Inc. says it will return its Lunke Ventra Automotive business in Germany to its former owner in exchange of about $8.4 million in debt. Two other German plants and a factory in Poland will stay under Ventra's control. Ford Motor Co. boosts its 20% stake in Nemak SA, the auto parts unit of Mexican industrial group Alfa SA, to 25% after trading ownership of two Canadian plants with Alfa in exchange for the higher share. Magna International Inc. and Decoma International Inc. reach a final agreement for Decoma to purchase Magna's European exterior parts operations and Magna's majority equity interest in Decoma Exterior Trim Inc. Decoma will pay Magna C$300 million under terms of the deal. Autoliv Inc. and Korea's Mando Corp. sign an agreement to establish a joint venture named Autoliv Mando Corp., in which Autoliv will have 65% of the shares. The companies say the new JV is expected to have about 35% of the Korean market for seat belts, airbags and other safety products and eventually reach annual sales of approximately $200 million. Johnson Controls Inc. purchases 1.54 million shares in Donnelly Corp. from Heartland Funds of Milwaukee, WI. JCI says the purchase represents 3.3% of the voting power of Donnelly and 15.1% of its common shares outstanding. Meanwhile, JCI says it has completed the $58 million acquisition of Gylling Optima Batteries AB, a manufacturer of high performance spiral wound lead-acid batteries.

The Ward's Supplier Index declined less than 1% for the week ending Nov. 9, outrunning the Standard & Poor's 500, which fell 2.0%. Of the 62 actively trading companies on the Index, 26 posted gains.