Hartz speeds up ForMotion

VW sales managers meet at special summit in Braunschweig; Works council boss Volkert refuses to accept wage cuts

Wolfsburg. Important projects that are part of Volkswagen's ForMotion austerity program are only making very slow progress.

But, given the company's poor first-quarter results, VW boss Bernd Pischetsrieder demands quick success.

Personnel director Peter Hartz, the executive responsible for promoting the ForMotion initiative, last weekend called approximately 200 top managers from the global sales organization to a special summit in Braunschweig, Germany.

The aims of the meeting: additional austerity measures within the VW sales and marketing operations and new ways of increasing unit sales.

Pischetsrieder expects that an improvement in the sales performance will result in savings of half a billion euros in 2005.

The sales specialists were not happy. "Mr. Hartz may have many talents, but he is definitely no sales expert," one summit participant complained.

VW's commercial trucks sector (VWN) is also in turmoil. VW's management board is considering incorporating the division's engineering department into the passenger-car business. Officials said that the independence of the VWN sales and marketing departments is also being discussed. Brand manager Bernd Wiedemann declined to comment.

Klaus Volkert, head of the VW works council, said in an interview with Automobilwoche that he would fight possible wage cuts. Earlier, Hartz publicly announced more flexible wage structures and demanded a 30 percent reduction in labor costs by 2011. "If this means significant wage cuts then I will not agree," Volkert said.

However, the works council is prepared to discuss how to "avoid the duplication of work" or "modern concepts regarding demographic working hours."

"Our colleagues' average age is rising fast," Volkert said, "and in the near future there will probably be no major recruitment waves at Volkswagen that could help reduce the average age."

He said that Volkswagen may even consider different standard working hours for younger and older employees.

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