Chattanooga and Hamilton County officials are looking to add Volkswagen's new Passat to their vehicle fleet programs.
VW is aiming the Chattanooga-made Passat at fleet operations generally, and it even hosted more than 80 such customers at an event in June to introduce the midsize car.
"We can't speak about an exact figure, but it is significant," said Carsten Krebs, VW Group of America's corporate communications director, about fleet sales.
City government has already broached the idea of acquiring Passats with Volkswagen's fleet sales operation, said Richard Beeland, a spokesman for Mayor Ron Littlefield.
"We discussed the specifications of cars," he said, trying to determine if they would fit the city's needs.
Beeland said the city already has a number of diesel Jettas.
County Mayor Jim Coppinger said that if purchasing rules permit, officials will give serious consideration for buying Passats for its fleet program. He planned to have the county's legal staff look at the possibilities and talk with its fleet manager.
"We're a government entity and we have to follow the law," Coppinger said about purchasing requirements.
Beeland said the midsize Passat could be used for a variety of purposes, including the police department. He said the Passat might not work as a regular police cruiser, but it could be used for detectives and as take-home cars.
"As long as the specs fit, we'd love to be able to use the new Passat," Beeland said.
In Alabama, the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's Department has several Mercedes-Benz R-Class patrol units. The department operates the units in a partnership with the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance where the vehicles are produced.
Krebs said the Passat is in "the sweet spot" in terms of both size and pricing for fleet customers.
He said VW has already secured orders for 2012 Passats from both rental and commercial fleet customers since the June event.
"We believe by providing orders to key fleet customers we have an opportunity to increase our exposure to new potential buyers, both rental customers and commercial fleet drivers, and increase awareness and consideration for retail sales," Krebs said.
The $1 billion VW plant is slated to produce about 150,000 cars a year once it's fully ramped up in early 2012.