DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co.'s announcement last week that it will cut 1,400 salaried workers in North America and Asia is a decision normally reserved for distressed business units and economic downturns.
But Ford and crosstown rival General Motors -- facing a Wall Street wary of their prospects -- are bracing for the worst even amid good days.
During the Great Recession, Ford cut to the bone in North America as its profits disappeared and it fought to avoid bankruptcy. This decade, it slashed hundreds of white-collar workers in Europe to stop mounting losses there.
But this time, the company is trimming staff from North America, its most profitable region, during a relative boom time.
"We're doing this while our business and the external environment is strong to improve our competitiveness and prepare for a downturn whenever that might occur," spokesman Mike Moran told Automotive News.
That strategy, analysts say, could spare Ford from the next industry slump and allow it to keep spending on what it sees as crucial, but pricey, emerging technologies such as autonomous and electric vehicles. Ford is placing multibillion-dollar bets on a future dominated by robot cars, electric powertrains and new mobility services.
This month, Ford's top management faced questions from shareholders and board members about why the company was sacrificing profits today on technologies that likely will take years to pay off.
"On the surface [the cuts have] the appearance of a knee-jerk reaction to the investor pressure, but obviously this was in the works well before that," said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive.
Stephanie Brinley, a senior analyst at IHS Markit, also said the moves were "carefully planned and not likely a reaction to recent events."
Ford officials said the move -- announced to employees last week after The Wall Street Journal reported much larger cuts were coming -- was part of a plan announced in September to save $3 billion annually. It will affect corporate staff, including the finance, legal, human resources, communications, government, marketing, sales and service departments. Affected workers will receive early retirement or special separation packages and will be gone by the end of September.
Areas spared the ax -- product development, Ford Motor Credit Co., manufacturing, information technology and global data and analytics -- are all tied into future revenue streams.
"These are all moves to try to stay on top of things," Schuster said. "It's showing a more proactive style of management."
Likewise, GM has worked since 2015 to cut costs from its operations around the world, announcing in January that it had raised its target to $6.5 billion by the end of 2018.