Source: The New York Times
Chattanooga's Volkswagen plant and rapid growth in emerging markets will help the automaker likely race to the top among the world's automakers in 2011, officials said Monday.
"Volkswagen Chattanooga is an important cornerstone of Volkswagen Group's global strategy," said Frank Fischer, chief executive of the automaker's Enterprise South industrial park operation.
Citing several auto analysts, Bloomberg News reported Monday that VW's sales, third in 2010, will probably top Toyota and General Motors worldwide in 2011.
VW sales globally are expected to jump 13 percent to 8.1 million vehicles this year, based on the average of three analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. GM sales will gain about 8 percent to 7.55 million, while Toyota will drop 9 percent to 7.27 million, according to the survey.
Aaron Bragman, an analyst for IHS Automotive, told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that VW is seeing a lot of growth in developing countries. For example, VW reported earlier this month that sales in China were 14.6 percent above last year through September to 1.69 million vehicles.
"It produces a lot of small cars in places all over the world," Bragman said.
Bragman said while VW still has a small percentage of the United States market, it's growing and the Chattanooga plant will play a role in future sales.
"They didn't build the plant in Chattanooga just to build the Passat," he said. "There's a lot of room and more is coming."
Bragman said VW will have to expand its existing lineup of vehicles offered in the U.S.
"If they want to be one of the biggest automakers, they've got to expand and have a much more full lineup," he said.
In North America, VW's sales through September are up 21.4 percent to 485,400 vehicles, the German carmaker reported.
J.Ed. Marston, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's vice president of marketing, said there's an opportunity for the city in regards to potential VW expansions.
"As VW succeeds, they're in a better position to add additional capacity and jobs in the Chattanooga facility," he said.
The Chattanooga plant now employs over 2,000 workers.
Fischer said production volume in Chattanooga is approaching about 400 vehicles daily and is on plan.
He added that the shipment of Passats to dealers is expected to pick up towards the end of this month.
"Our local contribution to the Group's global success is manufacturing a high-quality Chattanooga Passat with passion for detail to make it an outstanding success in the American market," Fischer said.
Bragman said while VW sales could top the world market this year, it could fall back next year as Toyota smoothes out production and distribution issues caused by the earthquake and tsunami earlier this year.
J.D. Power and Associates Automotive Forecasting said 72 million light vehicles were sold in 2010 worldwide.