Heaviest VW construction work completed

Heaviest VW construction work completed

November 17th, 2010 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

Contributed Photo Workers put up the first wall on the market delivery options building at VW's Chattanooga plant

Just a year and a half after the first building pillar was raised, construction work is easing at Volkswagen's $1 billion plant site as officials eye an early 2011 production startup.

"They are wrapping up major construction," said Steve Leach, the city's public works administrator, on Tuesday.

While work is expected go through next April, much of that will involve a refining of the project, he told the city's Industrial Development Board.

"Obviously, major construction will be completed," Leach said. "There's a lot of finish work being done."

Frank Fischer, chief executive of VW's Chattanooga operations, said plant work remains on track.

Inside the 2 million-square-foot factory, a third round of test vehicles are being produced, he said last week.

The last major building to go up at the site, a market delivery options facility where cars coming off the assembly line are readied for shipment to dealers, is well under way.

Fischer said some team members have already moved into the plant's office space, which is in the middle of the facility in a location called "the spine."

Outside the factory, Fischer said, the road system is basically complete while the laying of rail to the plant is in "good shape" and set to be finished early next year. About 6.6 miles of track is to be laid, according to VW.

He said 85 percent of all vehicles assembled at the plant will be shipped by train.

Work is done on two outside vehicle test tracks, Fischer said. A nearly half-mile track will check newly made vehicles at speeds up to 75 miles per hour, he said. A shorter one, about a sixth of a mile, has different surfaces where every vehicle is tested for rattles, the plant CEO said.

Fischer said the plant's design is a unique one but officials are "very satisfied."

"We are feeling really good about it," he said.

Leach said a big roundabout being built nearby at Volkswagen and Discovery drives should be ready by the end of the month. That will reopen access to the plant from Bonny Oaks Drive.

Also, a railroad overpass under construction on Hickory Valley Road is expected to be finished in March, Leach said.

VW has hired more than 1,200 people so far, officials said. The German automaker plans to bring on between 2,000 and 2,500 workers.

The plant will produce a new midsize sedan aimed at American motorists.