Volkswagen AG plans to sell 800,000 cars to customers in the United States by 2018, an ambitious goal that would about triple the current number.
“This new site will play a key role,” said Martin Winterkorn, chief executive of Volkswagen AG. “We look forward to establishing an important mainstay for ourselves when we become the biggest European car maker” in the United States.
The new plant, slated to open in 2011 in Chattanooga, is to start producing 150,000 cars annually.
The company recently laid out a multi-prong strategy for its U.S. operations.
First, the German automaker — Europe’s largest by production — said it will offer a competitive product range with high quality.
Stefan Jacoby, chief executive of Volkswagen Group of America, said plans are to produce a new mid-size sedan designed for the North American market.
“The U.S. strategy is the top priority for the Volkswagen Group,” Mr. Jacoby said.
In addition, plans are to sell about 200,000 Audis in the U.S., he said.
VW officials have said they want to boost the company’s market share in the United States from the current 2 percent to more than 6 percent by 2018.
The company also wants to increase the efficiency of the dealer network, officials said, by establishing a better organization. It recently moved its headquarters from Michigan to Virginia to be closer to its customers, which are mostly on the East Coast.
And, VW simply wants to build cars in America.
Mike Randle, publisher of industry magazine Southern Business and Development, said VW made a mistake in the 1980s when it decided to close down an assembly plant in Pennsylvania amid slowing sales. That had been VW’s only assembly plant in the U.S.
“VW has not had the best track record in the U.S.,” Mr. Randle said. “Are they smarter than they were? Probably.”
Paul Taylor, economist with the National Automotive Dealers Association, said VW had several bad years of sales in the U.S. earlier this decade, but it has made a significant recovery.
“They’re moving quickly,” Mr. Taylor said.
Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...