(Reuters) - Volkswagen's (VOWG_p.
DE) Audi division may suspend production of high-end luxury vehicles early next year if a slump in western European auto markets worsens, Audi's top labor leader said.
German premium car makers were considered largely immune to the crisis buffeting mass-market European auto manufacturers. But cracks are beginning to show as slowing economic growth and persistent unemployment deter customers from making purchases.
The world's number-two luxury car maker has twice shuttered its second-biggest plant in Neckarsulm in early and late October for a week each time, affecting production of models including the A7 coupe, the A8 sedan and R8 sportscar.
Neckarsulm, which lies near Stuttgart in southwest Germany, builds models ranging from the A4 sedan to Audi's most expensive cars such as the 70,000-euro A8 and the 125,000-euro R8 Spyder.
The October stoppages "are sufficient for a short-term period", Audi works council chief Peter Mosch told Reuters.
"Should the market situation deteriorate considerably at the start of next year, then it is possible that further action may have to be taken," said Mosch, who also sits on the supervisory boards of Audi and its parent V