published Saturday, November 19th, 2011

Volkswagen employees celebrate the early success of the Passat

Frank Fischer, CEO of the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant, reveals the Motor Trend Car of the Year award to over 1,000 employees Friday during a meeting at the Volkswagen conference center. Editor-in-chief of Motor Trend Angus MacKenzie praised the efficiency and design of the Volkswagen Passat.
Frank Fischer, CEO of the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant, reveals the Motor Trend Car of the Year award to over 1,000 employees Friday during a meeting at the Volkswagen conference center. Editor-in-chief of Motor Trend Angus MacKenzie praised the efficiency and design of the Volkswagen Passat.
Photo by Jenna Walker.
  • VW honored by Motor Trend as Car of the Year
    Motor Trend editor-in-chief Angus MacKenzie presented the 2012 Car of the Year award to Volkswagen employees during a presentation at their Chattanooga plant Friday.
  • VW officials accept Car of the Year honor
    Watch as Jonathan Browning, president and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, and Frank Fischer, CEO of Volkswagen's Chattanooga operations, accepted Motor Trend's 2012 Car of the Year award at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
  • VW status update
    Frank Fischer, CEO of Volkswagen's Chattanooga operations, addressed the possibility of building a second vehicle at the Enterprise South facility during a news conference Friday.

While Volkswagen workers rallied Friday at the carmaker’s Chattanooga plant to mark the Passat’s Motor Trend Car of the Year win, officials said they’re trying to garner a second vehicle.

“We’re working hard in getting a second model into the plant,” said Frank Fischer, chief executive of VW’s Chattanooga operations.

Amid whoops, hollers and applause, about 1,000 VW employees celebrated the early success of the Passat.

When the wraps came off the Motor Trend magazine trophy, the factory’s first shift raised the roof of the Chattanooga plant’s conference center.

“The Passat is really creating some momentum in the market,” Fischer said.

At the same time, officials said they’re looking at both human and equipment needs required to produce another vehicle.

SUV FOCUS OF REPORT

On Thursday, the Financial Times Deutschland reported that VW’s top management in Germany is weighing production of a sport utility vehicle in Chattanooga.

Fischer told reporters in a briefing that there has been no decision. But within the plant’s same basic structure, the factory could bolster production by 100,000 to 250,000 vehicles a year with alterations, the CEO said.

“In the body shop, we’d have to make a number of changes,” he said. “In the paint shop, we’d have to add a second line.”

SALES HIGHER

Currently, Fischer said, Passat sales are exceeding expectations “by quite a high number.” In October, the first full month the Passat has been on dealer lots, sales of the all-new midsize sedan totaled about 5,000 of the 28,000 total cars VW sold nationally.

Fischer said the Passat’s figures also spur dealers to invest in marketing the vehicle.

Angus MacKenzie, Motor Trend’s editor-in-chief, told the group of employees that winning the award is “a remarkable achievement” by a new factory.

“Building a car is an extremely complicated process,” he said. “This award is your award.”

Employee James Teague said he isn’t surprised about Passat’s win.

“We know what we’re doing,” he said.

Another employee, Sabrina Koerner, said she feels a part of the car’s production effort.

“I think it’s great,” she said about the award.

A key VW supplier was cited Friday for continuing to work to provide carpet for the Passat when flooding hit its Pennsylvania plant in September.

Dan Dugan, an Autoneum vice president, said VW helped bring its production back to life in the aftermath of the flood by helping re-establish its supply chain.

“We were able to quickly resume production back into Chattanooga,” he said.

Tom Loafman, Volkswagen Group of America’s director of purchasing, said Chattanooga plant production could have been shut down for weeks without the carpeting.

Another supplier, Faurecia North America, lauded the Passat’s win.

“The Passat is part of one of the most competitive segments on the market,” said Mike Heneka, the company’s president.

Faurecia North America provides the exhaust system for the car in Chattanooga at an adjacent supplier park and is slated to employ 35 workers when it reaches full production. Heneka said it also provides seat frames, the instrument panel and front-end carrier for the Passat from other locations.

Should VW expand production in Chattanooga, he said, Faurecia “welcomes any opportunity to expand its relationship with Volkswagen.”

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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CaraVan said...

Even though factory wasn't producing american cars, I think they too deserve a part of the success. Maybe the company have split some of the profits with the 1000 employees to show their appreciation. The VW Passats is truly a remarkable vehicle, and I think it will do well for some time. It would be great if the factory was given another vehicle to produce too. More good news like this are needed for the auto-manufacturers in america. Jon - http://www.caravan-insurance-experts.co.uk/

March 5, 2012 at 11 p.m.
J3rrYcid said...

If they were so successful with the Passat, maybe the next car they can produce in their factory will be as good or even better. By celebrating the success of the Passat with their employees, I can feel that they are acting like a big family. This morale boost will surely carry on to their next project. Melanie - http://www.carid.com

March 15, 2012 at 4:12 a.m.
CruckleyCaravan said...

Looks to me like VW is making a commitment to the local and state economy that other brands might imply they match but don't come close to. Congrats VW.

My wife and I have been surprisingly impressed with our 2010 Jetta TDI Wagon. The MPG are amazing, and the interior quality is very nice, as well as pleasing to the eye. We have an 80 lbs dog and 180 English Mastiff that fit comfortably in the car, and the seating material is very easy to clean. We do miss some of the customer service that we received at the BMW service shop compared to the VW shop, but the price makes up for it. And that's really not a knock on the car, but the specific dealership.

Good job VW. After going from Toyota, to BMW to Infiniti, you might have made me a repeat customer for the first time. Mike - http://www.cruckley.co.uk

March 19, 2013 at 6:23 a.m.
MotorTradeIns said...

I think it is fantastic that VW is building cars in the US again, and I'm glad they invested in the south, where so many other successful car companies have built plants. I would like to see not only other vehicles like the Polo and Tiguan built in Chattanooga, but I would also like to see diesel engines made in the US.

VW of North America is on the right track (for the most part).

Dan - http://www.insurance4motortrade.co.uk

July 18, 2013 at 6:31 a.m.
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