By Tracy Donhardt, IBJ reporter

Ford Motor Co.'s 2,000-worker east-side Indianapolis plant has several problems that could make it difficult to attract buyers, an auto industry consultant says, advancing the possibility it will be closed.

The plant is included among the nearly 35 plants Ford plans to close or sell by the end of 2008, the automaker announced today.

The English Avenue plant, which makes steering components, is part of Ford's Automotive Components Holdings LLC unit, which includes 23 troubled plants that used to be part of Visteon Corp., a Ford spinoff.

Ford took back the plants from Visteon last year. Under the restructuring Ford announced this morning, all ACH plants are set be closed or sold by the end of 2008.

Three months ago, Dennis Virag, president of Automotive Consulting Group Inc. in Ann Arbor, Mich., told IBJ that the local plant had difficulties that would make it an unlikely candidate for sale.

For starters, he said, the facility would need to improve its management and employees would have to take further wage cuts.

Also, Ford has not invested enough in the plant or its equipment.

"The probability of a sale is fairly low, aside from putting a bargain basement price on it," Virag said at the time. "The former Visteon plants are not a good business today. But if a company can buy it right, and management it right, it could be a viable business."

A spokeswoman at a local United Auto Workers office this morning confirmed that Ford's new plan applies to the east-side plant. Jim Lewis, president of UAW Local 1111, which represents employees at the plant, referred further calls to the company's public relations department, which did not did return a call for more information.

The Indianapolis steering plant opened in 1957. Employment peaked at 3,000 about 10 years, ago but has been dropping ever since. About 300 workers have been let go in the past year.

Ford's restructuring includes a broad range of moves aimed at reducing operating costs by $5 billion.

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