Volkswagen labor chief dissatisfied with US operations image

VW’s top labor representative has dubbed the carmaker’s US operations a “disaster” and called for more models and swift decisions to revive the German group’s declining fortunes in the world’s second-largest auto market.

The German multi-brand group last month ousted US divisional chief Jonathan Browning, who oversaw the much-lauded 2011 launch of the midsize Passat, sales of which declined 6.3 % last year after a 2011/12 surge.

While VW has risen to become the biggest automaker in China and Europe, the group has yet to fully understand how to succeed in the United States, Bernd Osterloh, VW’s works council chief, told reporters.

“The US are a case of disaster” for VW, said Osterloh, who also sits on the carmaker’s supervisory board.

Osterloh echoed criticism from the company’s new head of US operations, Michael Horn, who this month said that VW headquarters had paid little heed to the dynamics of the US market.

VW’s situation in the United States, where the company has been grappling with losses for years, will not improve until 2016 and it needs more models there, including a pickup truck, Osterloh said.

Osterloh said that the carmaker would also be able to cope with changes to top management at any time. Five of the nine executives, including CEO Martin Winterkorn, are older than 60.

“I believe we can react quickly if we’re in need of (personnel) changes,” Osterloh said.

Speculation about a potential lack of a younger generation of leaders at VW flared up last September when the carmaker denied a report claiming that 76-year-old chairman Ferdinand Piech would soon step down for health reasons and be replaced by 66-year-old Winterkorn.

Osterloh said he is counting on both Piech and Winterkorn to serve at least until 2018, the year VW has pledged to overtake Toyota and General Motors as the world’s biggest carmaker by volume.

Via Reuters