Audi has taken control of Volkswagen’s Brussels plant, following an agreement with the Belgian trade unions to build a new small car there around the end of 2009 at a rate of 100,000 units a year.

In the interim the Audi A3 will be built at the plant, as well as various Volkswagen models. Audi has committed to producing 84,000 cars a year at the plant between 2007 and 2009. The A3 was previously built at the plant between autumn 2004 and the end of 2005.

“This has all been made possible thanks to the agreement to cut personnel costs by 20%. We are using the outstandingly qualified workforce as our basis. It is therefore particularly pleasing that, with 2,200 employees, many more jobs will be preserved than originally envisaged,” said Audi personnel chief Werner Widuckel.

He added: “The agreement is now valid without any qualification, and will be implemented in every respect.”

The working week has also been extended from 35 to 38 hours.

Volkswagen announced last November that it would end Golf production in Brussels, and retain just over 1,000 out of over 5,000 jobs to continue producing just the Polo at the plant. The decision led to a protracted strike.

“Audi attaches importance not just to competitiveness – among other things based on flexible working hours involving working time accounts and reduced labour costs per hour – but also to the introduction of attractive tools such as employee profit-sharing that incorporates the criteria of productivity, quality, costs per vehicle and attendance figures,” Widuckel said.

He added that Audi was looking to boost its attractiveness as an employer with health management measures and ergonomic working conditions.

“Those also include the introduction of teamwork within the Audi production system, as well as training programmes and a continuous improvement process,” said Audi production head Frank Dreves.

Over 76% of the Brussels workers voted in favour of an agreement drawn up by the plant’s management and unions.

Audi’s German unions have also been involved in discussions and have received assurances that the addition of the Brussels plant to the Audi production network will not result in job losses elsewhere.