International effort

International effort

March 25th, 2011 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

While the all-new Volkswagen Passat is designed for and made by Americans, a French company is playing a key role in the car.

Faurecia, the world's sixth-biggest automotive parts supplier, is providing technology inside, outside and under the new midsize sedan made in VW's Chattanooga plant, according to the company.

Mike Heneka, Faurecia's North American president, said the company is investing $2 million in VW's Chattanooga supplier park to provide emissions systems for the car.

Faurecia is building front and rear exhaust systems for the Passat and plans to create 35 jobs here.

In all, Faurecia has committed production in 10 plants, including five in the United States, to supply systems and components for the Passat.

Faurecia is providing manual front-seat structures, power front-seat back rests and interior instrument panels. For the car's exterior, Faurecia is supplying a support structure for the grille, headlamps, bumper and other components.

But Heneka said that locating a just-in-time facility adjacent to VW's assembly plant is ideal for its exhaust systems.

"It saves money. It makes it more efficient for us," he said in a recent telephone interview.

Larry Bradley, site manager for Faurecia Emissions Control Technologies in Chattanooga, said locating in the supplier park helps communication with VW.

"We have better relations with Frank [Fischer]," he said about the CEO of VW's Chattanooga operations.

Heneka said Faurecia and other companies working with VW in Chattanooga have formed a supplier council. The aim is to figure out how they work better together, he said.

"It's a more collaborative effort," Heneka said.

He said that since the Chattanooga operation is VW's only U.S. plant, it's a different era for the automaker.

"It's a new plant, new people," Heneka said.

The supplier park has eight companies, and officials put the projected number of jobs there at about 525.

Other suppliers in the park are Ceva, Chattanooga Seating, Draexlmaier, Magna Exteriors and Interiors, M-Tek, Thyssen Krupp and Winguard.

The Faurecia chief said he likes the all-new Passat.

"It's a great-looking car. It's sized right and priced right," he said.

VW is expected to make the first customer car in April.