Chrysler LLC Chairman and CEO Bob Nardelli in a letter to employees says the auto maker will slash 25% of its salaried and supplemental workforce beginning in November.

Chrysler currently has 17,332 salaried workers.

“These are truly unimaginable times for our industry,” Nardelli says in the letter. “We continue to be in the most difficult economic period most of us can remember.

“Never before have auto industry sales contracted at such a fast rate,” he says. “Throughout this challenging time for our industry and our company, we have continued to face the realities of our business environment, and working as a team, we have been right-sizing our organization to become as competitive as possible.”

Workers affected by the cuts will be compensated, says spokesman David Elshoff.

“We’ll offer for the first time since 1991 buyout packages to salaried workers,” he says, noting the job cuts are not related to the rumored sale of Chrysler by owner Cerberus Capital Management LP.

Chrysler in a statement on its website says the “adjustment to workforce levels will be accomplished through a combination of socially responsible programs, including voluntary retirements and, in order to broaden the eligible group, salaried employee buyouts.

“These new programs will feature enhanced benefits, including both cash and new-vehicle vouchers,” the statement says.

Nardelli says Chrysler will make additional organizational and restructuring announcements in the near future as (it) finds new ways to operate.

The cuts are expected to be completed by the end of December.