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Ann Arbor, Mich. - JPE Inc. plans layoffs at its Canadian exterior auto parts molding operations but it will continue with Canadian production.

JPE told employees it will give layiff notice by the end of March, said James Fahrner, the firm's chief financial officer. He did not disclose how many will be laid off at Peterborough and Kitchener, Ontario, but he said JPE hopes to complete most of the layoffs at that time. JPE bought the former Pebra Inc. plants late last year for about C$30 million (US$22.2 million).

About 100 Canadian workers have been laid off, but most occurred prior to JPE's takeover, Fahrner said from JPE's headquarters in Ann Arbor. JPE has become more familiar with the molding operations and will decide on a stable employment level. He did not disclose what the level will be. Most were memebers of the Canadian Auto Workers union.

Farhner said JPE has not decided whether to consolidate the Peterborough and Kitchener operations but he stressed it will not move them to the United States. The operations are Tier 1 auto molders and Peterborough has Class A painting equipment. Their sales exceeded C$80 million (US$59.2 million) last year. The Canadian plants have about 38 presses with clamping forced up to 4,400 tons. They make fascias, body side moldings and rocker panels, mainly for General Motors Corp.

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