Passat sales top forecast

Passat sales top forecast

October 6th, 2011 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

PASSAT PICKED

The Chattanooga-made Volkswagen Passat was one of 17 vehicles nominated as North American Car of the Year. The top car will be announced at the Detroit auto show in January.

Volkswagen of America chief Jonathan Browning said in Chattanooga on Wednesday that the automaker sold more Passats than it expected in the first month of the car's launch.

"It exceeded our expectations," Browning said during a meeting with local officials and top political leaders of Lower Saxony, the German state that owns about 20 percent of the car company.

Browning said sales of the Chattanooga-made Passat are in the early days. "But the level of interest on the Internet and among dealers is a good sign," he said.

Frank Fischer, chief executive of VW's operations in Chattanooga, said Volkswagen sold about 50 percent more of the all-new midsize sedan than originally projected. Earlier this week, VW said it sold 3,176 Passats in September.

Fischer said the factory, which employs more than 2,000 workers, is producing more than 300 cars a day.

"It's a great team effort," he said.

Jorg Bode, minister for economics, labor and transport for Lower Saxony and a member of VW Group's supervisory board, said the automaker has set its sights on becoming the world's No. 1 car maker in terms of sales by 2018.

"It's important to be successful in the United States," he said. "You can't be No. 1 without success in the U.S."

Bill Hagerty, Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development commissioner, said he's hopeful of further ties with German companies.

Already, more than 10,000 people work for German companies in Tennessee, said Hagerty, who met privately with the Lower Saxony delegation Wednesday.

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield said he, too, sees future business connections.

"We're interested in companies that might be new to the American market," he said.