Ford Motor Co. has begun talking with union leaders about closing a Belgian factory that employs about 4,300 people. Closure of the Genk plant would occur by the end of 2014.

In the last five years, total vehicle demand in Western Europe has fallen more than 20 percent, and the U.S. automaker aims to cut costs and re-establish profitable operations. In the first half of this year, the Dearborn, Mich., company lost more than half a billion dollars in Europe.

"The proposed restructuring of our European manufacturing operations is a fundamental part of our plan to strengthen Ford's business in Europe and to return to profitable growth," Ford Europe chief Stephen Odell told the Wall Street Journal.