Report hints city role in Audi's plans

Report hints city role in Audi's plans

April 22nd, 2011 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

Audi production in Tennessee came up at the New York International Auto Show this week, according to a report.

Johan de Nysschen, Audi of America's president, said at the show Wednesday that the Volkswagen brand is considering building luxury vehicles in Tennessee, the Detroit News reported.

The Audi chief said no decision has been made, the report stated.

A company spokesman told the Chattanooga Times Free Press on Thursday that Audi has made no announcement about production and disputed the report.

Still, spokesman Andrew Lipman said Audi production in the United States is "certainly something it's considering" when it sells enough vehicles.

Earlier this year, an Audi official said U.S. sales need to reach 150,000 annually, which it expects to do in a couple of years.

At VW's Chattanooga plant on Monday, its first customer car was rolled out and the German automaker is on its way to kick off sales of its all-new Passat sedan in late summer.

When asked what's next, Frank Fischer, chief executive of VW's Chattanooga operations, said the plant has to show it can produce about 500 cars a day at a high-quality level.

"You have to show you can do it," he said. "We're very confident we can do it. We're still in the ramp up, but let's see."

Fischer has earlier said he's "100 percent sure" the factory will be entrusted with production of a second model.

The $1 billion Chattanooga plant, when fully operational, will have capacity to build 150,000 vehicles a year. But Volkswagen of America President Jonathan Browning said at the Detroit auto show in January that the plant could be expanded to produce 500,000 vehicles.

VW has said there's enough land at its Enterprise South industrial park site to duplicate the existing plant.

In an air quality permit application filed earlier with the city, VW said an expansion could include more paint and press lines and expanded body and assembly shops, which would allow VW to double production from 150,000 vehicles a year to 300,000.

Ultimately, the facility would have the potential to produce 595,000 vehicles a year, the documents indicated.