VW workers fear loss of Porsche Panmera work

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HANOVER, Germany (Reuters) -- Workers at Volkswagen's plant here are demanding the carmaker build a new model at the site to safeguard jobs as it may lose an order for Porsche's next-generation Panamera.

Porsche, which is owned by VW Group, may focus the welding and painting of the next Panamera, which is currently completed in Hanover, at its own factory in Leipzig, sources have said.

The Hanover plant employs more than 14,000 workers, who also build the VW T5 multivan and the Amarok pickup truck at the site, one of VW's biggest European plants.

VW currently produces between 140,000 and 150,000 T5 vans a year in Hanover, between 30,000 and 35,000 Amarok pickups and more than 20,000 Panamera bodies, a VW spokesman said.

However, capacity utilization is running at no more than 70 percent, said Thomas Zwiebler, head of the plant's works council, reflecting declining commercial-vehicle demand in key European markets. Experts say that a plant needs to run at 75 percent to 80 percent of capacity to break even.

"Porsche may well want the Panamera in Leipzig. We can imagine that too, but only if there is adequate compensation," said Zwiebler, who sits on VW's supervisory board.

"We need a second volume model besides the T5," he said, calling for a decision on a new model by the middle of the year when temporary workers' contracts will be up for renewal.

A VW spokesman declined to comment on Zwiebler's remarks, the prospect of a new model at the plant or about jobs.

Despite specializing in commercial vehicles, the Hanover plant -- VW's second-largest German factory after Wolfsburg -- has failed to get approval to build the next generation of the brand's Crafter van, Zwiebler said, citing the plant's capacity limits.

VW is considering building a new factory in Poland near its site in Poznan to build the Crafter, sources have said. The Crafter has been produced by Daimler since 2005 under a cooperation agreement.

A decision on Crafter production will probably be taken at VW's next supervisory board meeting on Feb. 21, Zwiebler said.

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