INGOLSTADT, Germany -- Audi union chiefs are fighting to keep production jobs in Germany during current pay talks.
Xaver Meier, head of the Audi works council, fears that production of next-generation models may be shifted from Audi factories in Germany to Volkswagen group plants in low-wage countries.
The new Audi Q7 SUV, which will debut at next year's IAA in Frankfurt, will be built at VW's plant in Bratislava, Slovakia.
Audi production boss Jochen Heizmann said the new Q5 small SUV and the A9 sports car also will be manufactured at VW plants.
"Portugal, Mexico and Belgium are all possibilities," Heizmann said.
He added that the decision will be made in 2005.
Audi's managers and works council are negotiating a new labor contract to replace the current agreement called Future Audi that expires at year-end.
Audi wants to reduce annual personnel costs by up to E20 million by ending or severely reducing Saturday shifts and overtime payments.
Meier says his priority in the negotiations is to ensure that Audis continue to be built in the company's German factories in Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm. About 30,000 workers in Ingolstadt produce A3, A4 and A4 Avant models. In Neckarsulm nearly 14,000 workers build the A6, A6 Avant, A8, allroad quattro, S8, S6 and S6 Avant.
Audi personnel boss Horst Neumann hopes to use German workers more flexibly by implementing working-week adjustments that match the entire life cycle of the product, often seven years.
Currently employee work schedules can be adjusted over the course of a year according to changing market demands.
Because of Audi's global growth, the number of its employees worldwide rose to 50,000 from 30,000 during the past decade.
Neumann wants until 2006 to examine Audi's structure and "reshuffle jobs" if necessary. But he said layoffs in Germany are not being considered.
"We will retain the same number of staff here," Neumann said, "but we will not increase it."