The festive spirit was lacking last month as the holiday party circuit became a steady stream of tough-luck stories of job losses and pay cuts. “Got any good news for me?” became a familiar conversation starter.

From auto maker to supplier, aggressive cost-cutting was dominating the headlines in the final month of 2001.

Sources tell WAW that General Motors Corp. may offer early retirement buyouts to employees at least 50 years of age, with 25 years on the job. It's unclear how many job cuts are in store, but the severance plan is expected to feature numerous financial perks.

Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler Corp. also have offered buyout packages and announced restructuring moves in the last year that will eliminate more than 30,000 workers.

In early November, Ford and Visteon Corp. cut payroll by 7% for contracting companies, prompting GM to lower its budget for temporary employment agencies. As many as 12,000 workers, including engineers and designers, reportedly are affected.

Chrysler Group was attempting to quiet speculation that it would make further job cuts. “There are no plans at this time for any layoffs beyond those already announced,” says Dieter Zetsche, Chrysler Group president and CEO. Cost-reduction efforts will accelerate but will not require more layoffs, he says.

Tough times also were impacting suppliers.

Delphi Automotive Systems Corp. was laying off 1,400 to 1,825 workers as part of the previously announced 11,500 positions it said it was cutting earlier this year, due to depressed auto sales.

Valeo Electrical Systems Inc. (VESI) files for bankruptcy protection while it reorganizes. The Chapter 11 filing is limited to Valeo SA's electrical systems operations, which produce wiper and airflow systems.

Valeo acquired VESI from ITT Industries in 1998. The filing is limited to VESI operations in Rochester, NY, and Auburn Hills, MI. VESI anticipates a $70 million loss for 2001, but says it will continue paying employees and serving customers.

Likewise, Hayes Lemmerz International Inc. files for bankruptcy protection while it restructures debt. Declining market conditions, in addition to heavy debt, precipitated the filing. Hayes Lemmerz also restates its financial results to reflect a $193 million loss in 2000 and first quarter losses in 2001 of $63.4 million.