BERLIN (Reuters) - Audi's labour boss has criticized plans by the carmaker to focus production of the brand's first mass-produced electric model outside its German home market.
Audi, Volkswagen's flagship luxury division, said earlier on Wednesday the e-tron quattro sport-utility vehicle (SUV) would from 2018 be assembled at a plant in Brussels, Belgium, together with batteries that will also be used in other VW group electric models.
The plan is part of a reshuffle at Audi to move production of the A1 subcompact from Brussels to the Spanish plant of VW's Seat unit and the Q3 compact SUV from Spain to an Audi factory in Hungary.
Audi said the move would make Brussels, one of its smallest factories employing about 2,500 workers, a "key factory for electric mobility within the Volkswagen group."
Peter Mosch, the carmaker's top labour representative who also sits on the supervisory boards of Audi and parent VW, was critical of the decision.
"What's beyond doubt is that our German plants are the strongest pillars of our success," Mosch said. "Our expertise in development is based here (in Germany) and should stay here. The production of electric models must be driven forward here too."
Audi's move comes as parent VW is reviewing production plans across the twelve-brand group as it aims to increase cost savings and meet multi-billion-euro costs from its emissions-cheating scandal involving 11 million cars worldwide.
A spokesman for the carmaker declined comment on costs of the reshuffle and possible incentives offered by the Belgian government.
Ingolstadt-based Audi has previously been reluctant to embrace all-electric drive technology but the success of Tesla and arch rival BMW's "i" series of electric cars has convinced Audi there is a market for electric luxury vehicles after all.
Audi's e-tron quattro, powered by three electric engines, is expected to run for over 500 km (311 miles) per charge based on a 95 kWh battery pack that can be fully recharged in about 50 minutes. The vehicle was unveiled at the Frankfurt auto show last September.
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