In the United States, we sometimes forget that General Motors and Ford are not the only automakers facing struggles.
In Germany, it's Volkswagen.
Wolfgang Bernhard, who played a big part in re-engineering the Chrysler group in Auburn Hills, Mich., is trying to do the same with the Volkswagen division to keep that storied brand from being marginalized.
That means developing products and cranking up sales by adding value or cutting prices on base models, such as the Jetta and the new Rabbit. For example, in the United States, VW will cut the price of the 2007 Jetta by $1,410.
To accomplish this means drastically reducing labor costs. In Germany, VW wants factory workers to put in 35 hours a week instead of 29 for the same pay, warning that 20,000 jobs are at stake.
Bernhard has said that unless the automaker radically changes the way it builds cars, the brand will be a mere shadow of itself in five years.
Predictably, the June 20 announcement that the new Scirocco sports coupe would be built in Portugal, not Germany, got workers all riled up. They viewed it as a provocation meant to force them to swallow management's demands.
At the Automotive News Europe Congress in Vienna, Bernhard's boss, Volkswagen AG Chairman Bernd Pischetsrieder, denied the announcement was meant to pressure workers. The decision was made nine months ago, he said. But he also said he wants workers to agree to the changes by the end of July.
Apparently, Pischetsrieder wants everything wrapped up so there will be labor peace in Germany, and everybody can take their traditional August vacations unfettered by labor worries.
You see, Delphi isn't the only messy situation in the industry today.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at [email protected].