Audi considers ending Brussels production, threatening 3,000 jobs

Sarhan Basem
credit; audi-mediacenter

Brussels (Brussels Morning) – Audi has revealed that it is restructuring its Brussels production unit, which could result in the complete cessation of operations, putting more than 3,000 Belgian jobs at stake.

Why is Audi considering ending operations in Brussels?

German Car Maker Audi management reported this at an exceptional works council meeting. It came in the wake of a crisis summit at Audi’s headquarters in Ingolstadt (Bavaria, Germany) where exhibition figures for the first half of 2024 were finished. The Brussels Forest area is the only Audi production line in Belgium. It has been simulating Audi’s flagship electric SUV models – the Audi Q8 e-tron and the Audi Q8 Sportback e-tron – since 2022.

What prompted Audi’s crisis summit at its Ingolstadt headquarters?

In a statement issued, Audi confirmed it is contemplating ending production in Brussels, noting a “global decline in customer demands in the electric luxury class segment”, which involves the e-Tron models. The car giant expressed the Q8 e-tron has been thriving for many years but that contest from other luxury electric vehicles has witnessed a “sharp drop” in incoming orders.

What challenges does Audi cite for its Brussels plant?

Audi also stressed “long-standing structural challenges” in the Brussels area, such as the closeness to the city centre which makes it challenging to change the plant layout. Logistical costs are also increased. The company stated that following an “intense review of the market situation and the general requirements at the Brussels site”, it is considering ending production of the Q8 e-Tron model series. Production of the e-tron models will probably be moved to Audi’s Mexico factory.

What is the “Renault procedure” mentioned by Audi management?

The administration of Audi Brussels states it plans to restructure the site by activating the “Renualt procedure” – a mandatory consultation time with workers under a Belgian law which was made following the closure of a Renault factory in 1997.

Talks with unions will consider resolutions but the company cautioned that a complete cessation of functions in Brussels is a potential outcome. There are presently more than 3,000 workers working at the Brussels site (as of the end of 2023). L’Echo notes that between July and October, almost half of this force (1,410) could forfeit their jobs due to the abrupt fall in production stats for the Q8 e-tron made in Brussels. The Belgian paper says that “unions fear the worst” and sense that Audi has ruled out constructing a substitute model at Forest.

With 20,000 to 25,000 cars scheduled for 2024, this year’s production will be smaller than 50% of last year’s (53,555 automobiles). By comparison, 230,000 electric cars are produced at Volvo in Ghent and over 400,000 automobiles rolled off the assemblage lines at Audi’s Ingolstadt plant.

Where might Audi move production of its e-tron models?

In a press release, the CEO of Audi Brussels Volker Germann stated that a final judgment has not yet been made. He stated that “a transparent and constructive discussion is important in the procedure that will follow. We will take all views into account.”

How has the Belgian government responded to Audi’s plans?

The Belgian Minister for Economy and Labour Pierre-Yves Dermagne, grieved the news of the restructuring reported by Audi Brussels. As Deputy Prime Minister he confirmed that staff at the plant will be notified of the ongoing process and that all possible ways to save these jobs will be “seriously concerned”.

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Sarhan Basem is Brussels Morning's Senior Correspondent to the European Parliament. With a Bachelor's degree in English Literature, Sarhan brings a unique blend of linguistic finesse and analytical prowess to his reporting. Specializing in foreign affairs, human rights, civil liberties, and security issues, he delves deep into the intricacies of global politics to provide insightful commentary and in-depth coverage. Beyond the world of journalism, Sarhan is an avid traveler, exploring new cultures and cuisines, and enjoys unwinding with a good book or indulging in outdoor adventures whenever possible.