A Volkswagen plant in Brussels that normally churns out VW Golf hatches will switch to producing Audi models with the first A3 expected to roll off the production line by the middle of the year. Automobilwoche reports that the current workforce of 5,400 employees will be reduced to just 2,200 personnel in preparation for the production of the all new A1 minicar in 2009.

Audi exec Rupert Stadler signed the declaration of intent yesterday with Belgian trade unions in Ingolstadt, making Brussels the fourth location for an Audi factory after the Neckarsulm, Ingolstadt and Györ sites. To secure the deal it’s thought that Belgian trade unions had to accept lower wages and longer hours, up to 38 hours per week from the current 35 hours. VW on the other hand will shift production of its Golf to plants in Wolfsburg and Mosel in Germany, while the Polo small hatch will remain in Brussels until 2009.

Audi was forced to move production outside of Germany because of limited capacity at home. Demand for the A3 line is outstripping supply and management were anxious to expand production as fast as possible. Audi will build a combined output of 84,000 units for the A3 and VW Polo models in Brussels through until 2009 when production of the A1 will start, with production numbers expected to number up to 100,000 units annually.