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TORONTO (Reuters) - Chrysler Financial Canada said on Tuesday it is closing offices across the country to cut costs, a move that will affect about 145 of its employees, or nearly half its workforce.
Facing a plunge in North American vehicle sales, the financial arm for Chrysler in Canada said it will close its Calgary office immediately, and will shutter its Montreal office and its current headquarters in Windsor, Ontario, by May 1. It will consolidate its operations in Toronto and keep "a handful" of people in Windsor.
A spokeswoman said the company would offer relocation packages to some staff to move to the Toronto office.
She said the company will not know the exact number of layoffs for a couple weeks until employees consider whether or not they want to relocate.
"Depending on how many accept, if we don't get the number that we need, then we're going to have to hire some people in Toronto," said Jelena Jelich, company spokeswoman.
About 140 employees currently work in the Toronto office.
Both Chrysler Canada and Chrysler Financial Canada are privately owned by Cerberus Capital Management.
Kam Hon, an analyst at DBRS, said the restructuring is likely due to a couple of reasons, the obvious one being that Cerberus is going through tough times as the U.S. auto sector reels from the financial crisis, so it needs to cut costs.
"Cerberus is pretty hard-nosed about these things," he said.
The other is that Chrysler stopped leasing vehicles in Canada several months ago at the height of the credit crunch, so volume origination is down and the company cannot justify having regional offices.
The finance company said it has brought in outside consultants to help employees with career counseling. Those not offered the relocation packages will be offered severance packages based on tenure.
Chrysler Financial Canada, which offers financial products and services for retailers and consumers of Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge vehicles, currently has about 315 employees in Canada.
Reporting by John McCrank; Editing by Frank McGurty