DETROIT — Volkswagen is aiming to post sales of more than 500,000 vehicles in the United States this year, officials said Sunday, and Chattanooga’s mayor said he doesn’t think that target is unreasonable.
“I don’t think that’s an outlandish goal,” said Mayor Ron Littlefield, adding that the city stands ready to help VW.
Littlefield is attending the North American International Auto Show where VW’s Chattanooga-built Passat is competing for North American Car of the Year honors.
He said the city will give attention to easing traffic around VW’s $1 billion plant.
“That involves staying ahead of the curve in terms of traffic demands,” he said.
Littlefield said in an interview that he expects “tremendous growth” in the Ooltewah area because of VW and other businesses in Enterprise South industrial park.
“We need to stay ahead of it,” he said. Littlefield said such expansion was part of the issue related to the city’s growth boundary that was raised late last year.
Jonathan Browning, VW Group of America’s chief executive, told media members in New York on Sunday that the German automaker is targeting a half-million vehicles in sales in 2012, according to Bloomberg. That compares with 444,192 in 2011.
“We see continued recovery in the U.S. but slightly slower than we would have said a year ago,” Browning said.
The Chattanooga-made Passat is expected to play a key role in spurring VW sales this year as the plant continues to ramp up production. VW officials have said that the plant was built to produce 150,000 vehicles a year.
In the first four months the Passat was available for sale last year, it sold more than 22,000 units, according to VW.
Littlefield said the city and county lived up to their promises in getting the massive assembly plant up and running last year.
“We’re glad Chattanooga is the headquarters of Volkswagen manufacturing in America,” he said.
To meet traffic needs in and around Enterprise South, the city, county and state are looking at about $77 million in road projects. Later this year, work is expected to start on a new road from Highway 58 into the back of VW’s supplier park.
In addition, officials are looking at expanding Bonny Oaks Drive to five lanes and adding lanes to Hickory Valley Road through the industrial park.
“VW has a way of catching a ride to success,” the mayor said.
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 ...