published Friday, February 19th, 2010

Is Porsche in city's future? VW officials dismiss suggestion plant might produce luxury line

A new Volkswagen sedan is slated for production at the automaker's new Chattanooga plant in a little over a year. Audi is under consideration for later, officials have said.

Could a Porsche be next?

A spokesman for VW said this week there's no consideration of building Porsches at the plant. And a Porsche North America representative said Thursday that production will remain in Europe.

But Jeff Henry, general sales manager of Jaguar Land Rover Porsche of Chattanooga, said he's hearing talk that a Porsche might be in the city's future, though he offered no confirmation.

He said VW plans in the next three years to dramatically increase Porsche's volume and lineup.

"They want to sell more of them," Mr. Henry said.

Last year, VW took a 49.9 percent stake in Porsche's core sports car operation for $5.8 billion. The two German automakers plan to complete their merger in 2011.

VW Chief Executive Officer Martin Winterkorn also has become CEO of Porsche Automobil Holding SE as Porsche is integrated into the larger company and becomes a VW brand.

Jeannine Fallon of the auto Web site Edmunds.com said the idea of investing in the Chattanooga plant to build Porsches "sounds like a little bit of a longshot."

She said VW's best return on investment in the Chattanooga plant may be in producing "mass market" cars bought by a lot of Americans.

VW wants to become a volume producer of autos in the United States and more than triple sales to 800,000 units a year.

VW wants to produce 150,000 units annually of its new midsize sedan when it fully ramps up its local factory.

Only about 20,000 Porsches were sold in the U.S. in 2009, according to USA Today.

Guenther Scherelis, general manager of communication for VW's Chattanooga operations, said the idea of producing Porsches here isn't being considered.

The company is focusing on the new midsize sedan for 2011, he said.

PORSCHE SALES

About 20,000 Porsches were sold in the U.S. in 2009.

Robin Baker of Porsche North America said the automaker's plants in Europe will continue to make the company's sports cars and sport utility vehicle.

Late last year, Stefan Jacoby, VW Group of America's chief executive, said the automaker is considering building Audi models here, although it hasn't made a final decision. Audi is VW's luxury brand.

about Mike Pare...

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 ...

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JBaustian said...

Audi is only one of Volkswagen's luxury brands. Lamborghini, Bentley, and Bugatti are other premium brands under the Volkswagen umbrella.

February 19, 2010 at 11:24 p.m.
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