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Auto blogFri, 26 Apr 2013 17:43:00 EST
Each year, the Vienna International Motor Symposium showcases some of the up-and-coming technologies automakers are engineering for the use in passenger cars, and Volkswagen AG CEO Martin Winterkorn revealed some big developments VW is working on for its future products. Winterkorn discussed a multi-faceted approach that VW is looking to reduce its fleet fuel consumption and exhaust emissions.
Some of the bigger news he discussed included a "high-performance" diesel engine that will produce 134 horsepower per liter and a 10-speed DSG automatic transmission. While no specific applications were mentioned, we can only hope this is for the Audi R4 we keep hearing about.
Another topic he touched on that caused us to perk up our ears was had to do with VW's plug-in hybrid technology. While we know the PHEV versions of the Audi A3 and Porsche Panamera are on the way, Winterkorn also said that these two models will be followed up by Golf, Passat, Audi A6 and Porsche Cayenne plug-in models. Scroll down for a press release highlighting the automaker's future fuel-saving initiatives.
After months of fighting from both sides, it looks like the Volkswagen factory in Chattanooga, TN, might unionize under the United Auto Workers after all. According to a letter acquired by The Associated Press, VW and the UAW reportedly struck a deal last spring where the union agreed to stop its challenge of the organization vote with the National Labor Relations Board to help clear the way for the CrossBlue to be produced in Tennessee. In exchange, the automaker would recognize the UAW at the plant. Leaders of the Local 42 at the facility reportedly signed the letter.
It seems that such an agreement would clear the way for the factory to unionize after months of dispute. According to The Detroit News, under Tennessee law, workers aren't required to join the organization. Although, that might not be a problem. As of a few months ago, Local 42 already claimed to have signed around 700 of the plant's roughly 1,500 workers.
Controversy has constantly swirled around the possible unionization at the Chattanooga plant. The UAW held its official decision in February and lost 712 to 626. However, there were allegations of intense political pressure to make sure the ballot failed. A later report also found that VW was offered $300 million in incentives well before the vote to make sure things progressed to the "satisfaction of the State of Tennessee," but the deal was later retracted. In July, the UAW opened Local 42 on the campus in hopes of signing up a majority of the workforce by volunteering to be a part of it.
The redesigned Volkswagen Passat has been a decent seller since its debut in 2011, but sales have apparently dropped off enough that the automaker is trimming some of the employees from its Chattanooga, TN assembly plant. According to Automotive News, Volkswagen will be cutting shifts and laying off 500 contracted workers in response to slowing sales.
Currently, the plant has three teams running 10-hour shifts Monday through Saturday, but starting May 13, this will be reduced down to two teams running 10-hour shifts Monday through Thursday. This will be done to reduce dealer inventory (the article says that VW dealers, on average, have a 97-day supply of Passats) and production capacity (currently running at an annual pace of 170,000 units, which is more than the 150,000 annual units the plant was planned to produce).
This, of course, isn't saying that the Passat has been a failure since VW added 200 full-time employees to the plant in February 2012 to keep up with increased demand. The AN article says that automakers frequently overstaff plants during the launch of a new product - or in this case, a new product and a new plant - but eventually reduce the workers as things run smoother and more efficiently.