CLERMONT-FERRAND, France (May 1)—Groupe Michelin has implemented a structural cost reduction plan in North America aimed at saving the tire maker $125 million annually and taken other steps to maintain its global competitiveness. The company cited 2001 economic environment uncertainties, a slump in North American sales and increased costs as the prime reasons for the reductions. Michelin elected to implement the cost savings plan despite a 2.8-percent increase in consolidated net sales to $3.3 billion in the first quarter ended March 31 from $3.1 billion last year. The cost-cutting program in North America is expected to be finalized by the end of the first half, the company said. It also implemented other measures in the first quarter aimed at improving its bottom line globally, including better inventory control, tighter cost control and the re-examination of its 2001 investment plan.