Remember in school when a "C" was acceptable, a mark of an average student who lagged behind the brains but stood ahead of the truly challenged?

Forget those days. At Ford Motor Co., a new evaluation system is under way to trim marginal employees from its salaried workforce (100,000 strong), and as many as 2,000 employees annually could be looking for new work because of it, Ward's has learned.

The A, B, C grading system requires large departments within the company to label 10% of its salaried workforce as grade Cs, or underperformers, and another 10% as grade A, or having high potential for promotion. The remaining 80% will get B ratings, which means they are adequately doing their jobs but may not be candidates for promotion.

Ford insists this new grading system that went into action Jan. 1 is not aimed at slashing its workforce, although a spokesman admits it could result in employees branded with a C rating to leave the company.

"The goal is not to get people fired," a spokesman says. "The reason we are doing it is to improve managers' performance and help them learn new skills and deal with the change going on in the company."

Some managers aren't buying it. "This is yet another attempt to weed people out," one manager grumbles. "The pressure to dole out 10% grade Cs means that in some cases managers will flip a coin or pick out of the lot who will get a C," another manager says.

Indications are that workers who receive two consecutive grade Cs will be terminated.

Sound familiar? Earlier this year, Ford mailed letters to white-collar workers identified as having little chance for advancement at the company. Those employees were encouraged to seek work elsewhere.

Happy New Year, Minus the Oval Most of the recent speculation about changing building logos has centered in Auburn Hills, MI, but it appears the real moves are actually taking place many miles to the south, in Dearborn. In December, Ford Motor Co. was planning to remove its world-renowned blue and white oval from the face of its headquarters and replace it with the com-pany's full name in new script writing, Ward's has learned. The decision to discard the symbol in favor of script writing has been hotly debated inside the Glass House - so much so that the date to make the switch has been pushed back at least twice, once in early November and now from late December to early 2000, Ford sources confirm.

While Ford's official response is that the logo change "is still being studied," the company inadvertently tipped its hand with the mailing of its corporate holiday greeting card signed by Chairman Bill Ford Jr. and Chief Executive Jac Nasser. On the cover of the card is a watercolor painting, commissioned several months earlier, of Ford world headquarters with the new script logo and no blue oval.

"There was some thinking that over the Christmas holiday it would have been an appropriate time (to change the logo)," a spokeswoman admits. The push to replace the logo with what Ford refers to as its "trust mark" is ostensibly being done to better differentiate the automaker's six brands (Ford, Mercury, Lincoln, Volvo, Jaguar and Aston Martin).

There also are discussions to remove the oval badge from some Ford Div. cars and trucks, Ford sources say. Earlier this year, two new Ford ovals appeared on Ford Div. headquarters, located several blocks away from world headquarters.