published Sunday, June 27th, 2010

Ramping up

Audio clip

Claude Ramsey

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    Staff photo by Allison Kwesell Tommoris Jackson grinds a metal tube for the new assembly shop at the Volkswagen Plant at Enterprise South.

VW SUPPLIER PARK

VW has identified five tenants that will take residency in the on-site supplier park set to open this summer at the Enterprise South industrial park.

The suppliers will provide key components and logistics to the new midsize sedan set to begin production in early 2011.

Suppliers in the park will be:

Chattanooga Seating, front and rear seats, 140 jobs. Faurecia, front and rear exhaust system, 35 jobs.

Magna Exteriors & Interiors, front and rear fascia, 25 jobs.

Mtek, headliners and door panels, 40 jobs.

Thyssen Krupp, front and rear axles and corner modules, 90 jobs.

In addition, a wheel supplier and logistics services provider, both not publicly identified, will provide up to 170 more jobs.

ABOUT GESTAMP

Gestamp Corp. was the first Volkswagen supplier to land at Enterprise South industrial park.

It is building a $90 million plant that will make parts for the midsize sedan VW will produce in Chattanooga.

Constructing its factory on a 49.7-acre tract less than a mile from the VW plant site, the company plans to employ 230 workers within three years at the plant, said Jeff Wilson, Gestamp's president.

Headquartered in Michigan, it is a subsidiary of Gestamp Automocion, a privately held company based in Madrid, Spain.

Gestamp generates $7 billion in sales each year through manufacturing operations at 75 sites over the world.

Gestamp supplies Volkswagen in various countries in Europe and has new plants in Russia, India and Argentina that will supply Volkswagen.

Volkswagen's $1 billion auto assembly plant will lead to "a bright future" for the region's young people, Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey says.

But, he said, they've got to be encouraged "to get a good education and be prepared and trainable."

VW, in its effort to ramp up for an early 2011 production start, is hiring people every month, said Hans-Herbert Jagla, executive vice president of human resources for the automaker's Chattanooga operations.

So far, VW has hired more than 700 people for the Chattanooga plant under construction at Enterprise South industrial park.

Hiring will continue this year and into 2011 as the company grows to at least 2,000 employees, according to VW.

VW is investing both time and money in training to create what Mr. Jagla calls "the best-in-class work force."

"We're dedicated to get the cars with the highest quality," he said.

The training is needed because the customer's expectation when buying a vehicle is perfection, the official said.

"Everyone who builds a car should think this way," Mr. Jagla said. He said training for the current workers will continue until they start producing vehicles.

VW is starting its production work force at $14.50 per hour, growing to $19.50 per hour over 36 months.

VW officials said the 2 million-square-foot assembly plant is a key pillar of its strategy in the United States, seen as a market the automaker must grow in its drive to become No. 1 worldwide by sales.

The company plans to produce a new midsize sedan designed for American motorists. It expects to make 150,000 vehicles a year.

Michelle Krebs, senior analyst for the automotive website Edmunds.com, said VW is hitting the heart of the U.S. car market with the midsize sedan.

"It makes perfect sense to go into the biggest part of the market," she said.

Ms. Krebs said Toyota, which makes the best-selling Camry, is foundering amid a variety of recalls of its products, and VW already has a lot of expertise in making sedans.

Meanwhile, VW continues to build a supplier park next to the assembly plant where seven business will create about 500 new jobs, according to VW.

The businesses will help meet some of the pledge of spinoff employment that officials promised when the plant was announced in July 2008.

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield said he's hopeful many other suppliers will land in the area as VW's network unfolds.

"I look forward to the next chapter," he said.

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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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