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INDUSTRY TODAY 27
VOLKSWAGEN GROUP OF AMERICA • PROFILE
VOLKSWAGEN GROUP OF AMERICA IS ON TRACK TO OPEN IN EARLY 2011
A NEW BENCHMARK-SETTING PRODUCTION FACILITY ESPECIALLY CON-
STRUCTED TO MANUFACTURE A CLASS OF CAR SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED
FOR THE NORTH AMERICAN MARKET. DAVID SOYKA TOURS THIS
CHATTANOOGA, TENN. PLANT TO SEE HOW IT WILL DRIVE THE COMPANY’S
OBJECTIVE OF TRIPLING ITS U.S. CUSTOMER BASE WITHIN THE NEXT DECADE.
HE VOLKSWAGEN GROUP OF AMERICA IS
providing the Chattanooga Choo-Choo new competi-
tion as this Tennessee city’s most famous mode of
transportation. Located near the upper corner of
Georgia and Alabama in the bend of the Tennessee
River, Chattanooga is in the fast lane. Volkswagen Group of
America has taken advantage of this location with a ground-
breaking manufacturing facility built in league with many local
suppliers, businesses and partners. Here, the innovative
automaker aims to produce a new mid-size sedan for the
American family car market segment – its first American-pro-
duced vehicle since the 1980s.
The auto manufacturer, looking to become the world’s top
number-one carmaker, will offer a car specifically designed to
meet the needs of American customers. According to The Wall
Street Journal, in the1970s the German-based car manufacturer
owned seven percent of the American market and was the top
selling import, thanks largely to its quirky Beetle. Also known
as “the Bug,” the distinctive car was the company’s signature
product. However, the company gradually lost share as Japanese
manufacturers adapted more quickly to changing American
tastes for comfort and styling. Further, the “Bug” was crushed
underfoot when it failed to meet new U.S. pollution control stan-
dards. An ill-fated attempt to manufacture in Pennsylvania the
Bug’s boxy replacement, the Rabbit, failed with American con-
sumers. An updated Bug aimed at Baby Boomers was not
enough to reintroduce the brand. Volkswagen came to see the
United States as an afterthought to its core European, Asian and
Latin American markets.
But it wasn’t willing to write off a substantial market. This
meant addressing certain considerations. However peculiar
German engineers may find America consumer’s fascination
with drink cup holders, Volkswagen decided that it should and
could design and manufacture a car to f it middle-market
American tastes. Employing its iconic Bug as a marketing
“spokesperson” that emphasized the slogan of “great for the price
of good” – and coupled with its top U.S. selling Jetta vehicles
that embrace the concept – VW’s American sales are up 20.6 per-
cent this year, according to The Wall Street Journal. The devel-
opment represents the third largest growth trend behind Ford and
Subaru. The U.S. market share for VW has crept up to 2.2 per-
cent, though that still leaves a lot of room for improvement.
The Chattanooga plant in Hamilton County, the first domestic
VW plant in some 30 years, is geared to accelerated growth at
higher speeds. The new construction will ultimately provide
capacity to produce 150,000 vehicles of a larger family sedan. By
2018, the Volkswagen Group of America has set a finish-line goal
of 800,000 vehicles a year. The plant design anticipates growth
with modular expansion that will compensate for future capacity.
To call this an ambitious goal is an understatement: Decades
have passed since a European carmaker managed to produce a