The Chattanooga factory produced 40,000 cars in a partial year in 2011. Currently, the plant is making close to 600 cars a day.
Sales of Volkswagen's Chattanooga-made Passat are expected to blow by the model's 11-year-old high mark and set a new U.S. record in 2012, an official said Thursday.
"So that would be a big milestone," said Carsten Krebs, Volkswagen of America's corporate communications director.
Through April, Passat sedan sales hit 34,635 units. The current all-time high is 77,523 in 2001, according to VW.
"The car is the right size, priced correctly for the U.S. market now and we offer the only [clean diesel] model in this segment," Krebs said.
In redesigning the Passat to fit American tastes, VW made the car bigger and lowered the base price by about $7,000, to $19,995.
Guenther Scherelis, general manager of communications for VW in Chattanooga, said the local plant has geared up to produce close to 600 Passats a day.
He said VW and its contract employee company continue to bring on new workers, hiring 200 since late March. VW announced then it would hire 1,000 more workers this year, pushing its head count to about 3,500 employees.
Frank Fischer, chief executive of VW's Chattanooga operations, said then that VW is making about $7 million in changes inside the plant to bolster the speed of its assembly line so it can make 170,000 vehicles annually, up from150,000.
Two years ago before Volkswagen introduced its Chattanooga-make Passat, VW was selling about 10,000 Passats a year in America. For the past two months, VW has sold more than 10,000 Passats each month.
Corey Proffitt, a staffer for VW of America product communications, said the company is "right in the sweet spot" of the midsize sedan segment now.
"This is the first time we've been able to offer a Passat with the right blend of what midsize segment buyers are shopping for yet with the handling and performance expected from Volkswagen, still in the right price range," he said.
But the company has a long way to go to reach its goal of nearly tripling sales to 1 million VWs and Audis a year by 2018, officials have said.
"Our work is far from over and we still have plenty to do," Proffitt 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 ...