published Thursday, September 29th, 2011

VW official says rail site ready for future expansion

Pointing to possible expansion of Volkswagen's Chattanooga plant, the automaker's U.S. transportation manager said its key rail loading facility at the site is ready to grow with the factory.

"We expect to have large volumes of growth in Chattanooga," Scott Mabry, Volks-wagen Group of America's manager of transportation, said Wednesday.

VW has said the plant was built to initially produce 150,000 vehicles a year. Mabry told the Southeast Association of Rail Shippers meeting in the city that the new plant ultimately could make about 250,000 vehicles annually and even more if the factory footprint is doubled. VW officials have said there's space on site to add production by mirroring the existing plant.

"We're set if there's eventual growth at the plant," he said.

VW, which will ship about 85 percent of the new Passats made at the plant to dealers by rail, has the room at the plant site currently to hold about 60 rail cars, Mabry said. That number could be increased to 90, he said. Each rail car can handle about 14 Passats, the VW official said.

"We have space to put in more track," he said. "We built in the ability to expand."

Mabry cited the two rail lines that service the Volkswagen plant -- CSX and Norfolk Southern.

Andreas Linke, director of quality assurance for VW in Chattanooga, said earlier that having two lines to the assembly plant is "a big advantage" for the company.

"It's a tremendous benefit," he said.

Mabry said VW doesn't have a favorite railroad, adding that the company chooses which one to use on a particular day based on pricing and timing.

Having two competing companies "gives us a menu to select from," he said.

Mabry said shipping by rail is the best solution for VW in most cases, providing less damage and lower cost when compared to trucks.

He also said that railroads indicate that a ton of freight can go 484 miles on a gallon of fuel.

"Railroads have made a big point of how fuel-efficient they are," Mabry said.

VW started shipping Passats to dealers late last month and sales began shortly thereafter.

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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