2005 Frankfurt Auto Show Index by TCC Team (9/5/2005)
VW’s Bernhard Lays Down Ultimatum
Wolfgang Bernhard 2005Enlarge Photo
Bernhard’s highly visible role at this week’s press preview of the Frankfurt Motor Show marked his official coming out since agreeing to take on the difficult challenge of reviving Volkswagen AG’s flagship brand. More than a few of the ideas he brought with him, Bernhard acknowledged during an interview, were developed during his tenure as chief operating officer at Chrysler. He left DaimlerChrysler during a dispute with board members last year and was shortly after recruited by VW Chairman Bernd Pischetsrieder.
“It is clear,” said Bernhard, that leaders of the normally militant German labor union, IG Metall “understand…the need for change. We have our back against the wall. We can’t give anything anymore. The only thing we can give is the future of Volkswagen,” if workers help make the company more competitive. The challenge, he lamented, is getting the rank-and-file to understand the urgency and go along.
Working out of the spotlight, Bernhard has been implementing a number of changes designed to reduce costs on what observers described as an equally bloated white collar operation. To speed up the development of the sport compact, Bernhard brought nearly 300 key planners, engineers and managers together for a week-long summit session, dividing them up into 30 teams. “There were no excuses. Everyone was there. We put them in a big room and locked them up,” he explained, and told them no to do anything but work on this vehicle.”
Each night, Bernhard was handed a “report card” outlining the day’s efforts and calculating the projected savings each team had generated. “By the time we got 2000 euros, everybody cheered,” he recalled, adding that this saved the project, but it will still take union concessions to bring it home to
While problems at home are getting much of the attention, VW AG has a variety of other issues to address, including the slump in its
VW Taking a Breather
2007 Volkswagen EosEnlarge Photo
But don’t expect them to reach market in the near future. In a process that Bernhard admitted is decidedly out-of-date, VW has tended to cluster product launches together, then gone for several years with little new to show the public. In the future, he emphasized, the German automaker will work on staggering the roll-out cadence, even if it means delaying the replacement of existing products.