Porsche consultants hope to maximize efficiency of VW factory

qbilde.jpgPorsche CEO Wendelin Wiedeking is following up on his stated intent to take great care of his “Volkswagen investment.”  Porsche is VW’s largest shareholder with a 27.4 percent stake, which it plans to increase to 29.9 percent. Next year, adviser teams from Porsche Consulting, a subsidiary, will descend on Wolfsburg, Germany, to scrutinize VW’s main factory there. The teams will seek ways to improve material and work flow.

Tours of other plants are expected to follow. One insider said, “As the next step, Wiedeking would like to have VW’s Spanish factories checked. Pamplona and Martorell have a great need to catch up in the areas of labor and logistics costs.”

Acting as consultants, Toyota Motor in the 1990s turned an ailing Porsche into Europe’s most efficient and most profitable automaker. Wiedeking says those methods will work on VW.

“If anyone can challenge the Toyota benchmark (for efficiency), it’s VW,” Wiedeking said. “But that requires extremely hard work, and it doesn’t happen overnight.”

Porsche’s role at VW Commercial Vehicles in Hanover, Germany, is considered to be a model for intervention in Porsche’s car assembly operations.

The Hanover plant will be the source of painted bodies for the new Porsche Panamera coupe, which will debut in 2009. Porsche consultants reorganized the work flow at Hanover to boost efficiency.

The Porsche consultants also are expected to take over performance-related compensation. At Porsche, this is based on benchmarks such as the level of vehicle inventory and the number of quality complaints.

Last summer Wiedeking proposed to then Volkswagen group Chairman Bernd Pischetsrieder that several Porsche consultants be assigned full time to VW plants.

Pischetsrieder opposed the suggestion. Sources say Pischetsrieder’s resistance “strengthened the resolve” of Ferdinand Piech to oust him. Audi Chairman Martin Winterkorn will replace Pischetsrieder on Jan. 1.

Piech is both chairman of the VW supervisory board and patriarch of the Porsche family, giving him a double-edged sword to wield in VW boardroom politics. [autoweek]