Audi labor boss presses management for culture change

INGOLSTADT, Germany (Reuters) - Audi's VOWG_p.DE labor boss said he will "hold management responsible" for adopting a new leadership culture, raising pressure on the luxury carmaker to implement change as it grapples with its emissions scandal.

A 2017 Audi allroad Quattro is displayed at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan January 11, 2016. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

Audi submitted a plan this week to U.S. authorities to fix about 80,000 3.0 liter diesel cars that were found evading emissions limits and keeps pushing a probe into the scandal after suspending two engineers last November.

Audi’s labor leaders have long been calling for a new leadership culture by making it more open, less hierarchical, and by promoting greater trust among workers and managers.

“Now we also want a thorough implementation” of new leadership principles, Audi works council chief Peter Mosch said in an interview. “I am really holding management responsible.”

A spokesman for Audi declined comment.

U.S. regulators said in November that Audi used undeclared auxiliary software to allow Audi, Porsche and VW vehicles to emit excess emissions.

The 3.0 liter diesel engine was designed by Audi at its factory in Neckarsulm, Germany. The disclosure deepened the emissions test-rigging scandal at parent VW where about 480,000 cars with 2.0 liter engines were found violating U.S. rules.

VW’s top management and its powerful works council have since been pushing structural change and efforts to overcome an authoritarian management style which company insiders have blamed for the cheating.

“Appreciative and trustful leadership is a key part of corporate culture,” said Mosch who also sits on the supervisory boards of VW and Audi.

Separately, Mosch urged management to help train workers amid the increasing web-connectedness of traditional industry, dubbed “Industrie 4.0” in Germany, and said robots may carry out more specialized functions even when interacting with humans.

“We will reach a point in coming years where certain jobs will disappear and likewise new ones will emerge,” he said. “We must tell this to workers now and tie them in.”

Mosch also said Audi will keep hiring this year in production and administration, echoing optimism by management to push sales above last year’s record 1.8 million cars amid rising demand in Europe and the United States.

Reporting by Andreas Cremer, editing by David Evans