WOLFSBURG, Germany — The mid-size sedan that Volkswagen plans to make in Chattanooga is “a crucial car” for the company, according to Volkswagen Chief Executive Officer Martin Winterkorn.
“The U.S. is the biggest and most demanding market in the world,” he said Wednesday.
Mr. Winterkorn, in remarks to Gov. Phil Bredesen and about 50 other Tennesseans, said the maker of the Beetle is determined to return to “our place as a leading automaker” in America.
He said the company is offering “fascinating new cars” for American drivers, including the planned sedan that is designed to help VW nearly quadruple sales in the United States to about 1 million vehicles in 10 years.
Meanwhile, Walter de Silva, the top designer for Volkswagen, said the new sedan to be made in Chattanooga is “completely defined,” but he wouldn’t give away specifics.
“It has good balance but will not be boring. It’s very nice,” he said.
Mr. de Silva said he did not know when the new vehicle will be unveiled, but he said he is confident about the design of Volkswagen’s new American car.
“We’ll make it a customization of American life,” he said.
However, designers want to make it clearly identifiable as a VW, he said.
“It’s a success if people realize it’s a German car,” the designer said.
Volkswagen’s Santa Monica, Calif., design center is working on the car to be built at the planned $1 billion plant at Enterprise South industrial park, Mr. de Silva said.
He said he is confident about the car’s design “in his heart,” due to the quality of VW’s design process.
“The process is strong in the Volkswagen group,” he said.
Gov. Bredesen lauded VW’s cars and said he felt confident about the success of the Chattanooga vehicle after hearing from Mr. de Silva.
“It will appeal to a lot of Americans,” he said.
Matt Kisber, who heads the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, said Mr. de Silva’s design perspective was interesting.
“It helped me understand VW better,” he said.
Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey cited the creativity put into vehicles by VW, while Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield said he liked Mr. de Silva’s passion.
“I’m confident about what will come out of the plant,” he 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 ...