A “true American car” will soon be made in the Volkswagen Chattanooga plant according to CEO Martin Winkterkorn—but what’s it going to look like? “Big, attractive and with lots of high tech on board” Winterkorn promises, which does indeed sound like the American dream on wheels. The Tennessee factory opened to great fanfare in 2011 as part of a campaign to sell a minimum of 800,000 domestic vehicles by 2018. However, sales have been slumping recently in the US, but VW is sure to get back on track by taking the SUV market by storm.
While the auto giant’s key players, like the Passat, continue to perform well in the US market, overall sales are down by 13 percent this year. A midsized SUV directly targeted to the average American consumer might just be their ticket to vehicular domination. It’s slated to become available in 2016 and on the heels of the new R & D center also in Chattanooga. In total, VW has promised a $600 million investment in the next two years, all directed towards this southern state.
Flexing Those Muscles
Even though the announcement was just made in July 2014, plenty of experts are already piping up. An AutoTrader senior analyst, Michelle Krebs, says that VW needs to “beef up its portfolio” in order to secure the title of top automaker in four years—and VW agrees. Volkswagen’s head of operations in Chattanooga, Christian Koch says, “This vehicle will play a big role in our success here in America.”
As for Tennesseans themselves, they’re fully behind Volkswagen’s expansion, which means more jobs and more stability. Senator Bob Corker and Governor Bill Haslam were both in Germany for the SUV announcement and had nothing but kind words to say about their fellow Tennessee workers. Corker says “lives are being changed” due to VW and gave a special shout out to everyone who works at the plant. As for Haslam, he also thanked the workers and said he’s sure VW wouldn’t be moving forward with an SUV if the company “didn’t have confidence in the quality of the workmanship.”
Putting the Money Where the Motor Is
Haslam notes, “It means a lot to us that Volkswagen would double down on their bet on Chattanooga.” Part of the deal includes VW getting $166 million in incentives that will be directed towards plant development with an extra $12 million just for worker training. Whether or not this means a big surplus of new jobs is still up in the air, but one thing is certain—VW knows what drivers want, and a little extra power and space is a sure thing.