* October stoppages "short-term" remedy - labour leader
* Sees no further cutbacks at this point
* Neckarsulm plant output may fall 6.8 pct in 2013 - IHS
By Andreas Cremer
BERLIN, Nov 21 Volkswagen's Audi
division may suspend production of high-end luxury vehicles
early next year if a slump in western European auto markets
worsens, Audi's top labour leader said.
German premium car makers were considered largely immune to
the crisis buffeting mass-market European auto manufacturers.
But cracks are beginning to show as slowing economic growth and
persistent unemployment deter customers from making purchases.
The world's number-two luxury car maker has twice shuttered
its second-biggest plant in Neckarsulm in early and late October
for a week each time, affecting production of models including
the A7 coupe, the A8 sedan and R8 sportscar.
Neckarsulm, which lies near Stuttgart in southwest Germany,
builds models ranging from the A4 sedan to Audi's most expensive
cars such as the 70,000-euro A8 and the 125,000-euro R8 Spyder.
The October stoppages "are sufficient for a short-term
period", Audi works council chief Peter Mosch told Reuters.
"Should the market situation deteriorate considerably at the
start of next year, then it is possible that further action may
have to be taken," said Mosch, who also sits on the supervisory
boards of Audi and its parent VW.
The number of vehicles assembled by Audi in Neckarsulm may
fall 6.8 percent next year to 243,348, according to research
firm IHS Automotive. Mosch said no further cutbacks were planned
"from a present-day perspective."
Audi, which accounts for almost half of VW group's operating
profit, is not the only luxury-car maker to address weak demand.
Daimler said last month it had cut production of
its flagship S-Class sedan until the next version of the model
was ready to debut in mid-2013.
Porsche, also owned by VW, will scrap Saturday shifts from
January at its main factory in Zuffenhausen where the sportscar
maker assembles the 911 model and the Boxster/Cayman series.
Audi Chief Executive Rupert Stadler said at the Paris auto
show on Sept. 27 that the European car market, destination of
half of Audi's global deliveries, may stagnate in the next year
Possible stoppages could also affect Audi's main plant in
Ingolstadt at a later stage, Mosch said.
Audi produces about 1,200 cars a day in Neckarsulm and about
2,500 in Ingolstadt, where the A3 compact and Q5 series are
made. Output at Ingolstadt has been disrupted by refittings at
the plant because of changes in A3 production.
(Reporting by Andreas Cremer; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)