published Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Smyrna has Infiniti; will Chattanooga have Audi?

Nissan recently unveiled its Infiniti JX luxury crossover vehicle at the company's assembly plant in Smyrna, Tenn. It is the first luxury car built in Tennessee. Nissan also plans in the not-too-distant future to build a redesigned Pathfinder at the plant, as well as the Leaf electric car and the lithium-ion batteries for the Leaf.

Between production of the $40,000-plus JX and Nissan's other plans, the Smyrna plant is expected to have close to 6,000 workers by early 2013 -- 2,500 more than its current 3,500 employees.

That's great news for Smyrna -- which is just outside Nashville -- and for Tennessee as a whole.

But of obviously greater direct interest in the Chattanooga area are the serious prospects for significantly expanded production by Volkswagen at Enterprise South industrial park.

Volkswagen already has around 2,700 employees -- hundreds more than were projected when it was announced in 2008 that VW would build a plant here.

But news accounts suggest that Chattanooga also remains in the running with other North American sites for the production of VW's luxury brand Audi, or that some other type of VW vehicle could be built here in addition to the highly popular Passat.

As with Nissan's expansion in Smyrna, production of an additional vehicle at Chattanooga's VW plant obviously would grow local jobs and the region's economy.

Decisions on new VW production in North America are expected within a few months. We can't make those decisions for the company's officials, but the great success of the Chattanooga-built Passat -- Motor Trend magazine's car of the year -- does say something about the quality of our workforce. And we trust those types of factors will weigh heavily in considerations on where to build additional cars.

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