Volkswagen's newest Passat is starting to roll into dealerships across America after receiving a minor makeover, officials at its Chattanooga assembly plant said Friday.
While the 2013 Passat looks the same from the outside as last year's model, it holds 130 parts improvements, said Sam Elliott, a VW technical specialist at the plant.
"They are small continuous improvement items," he said.
One key change is a new center console that gives added storage room and removes a small door off the area where the cupholders are located, said Jason Swager, a research and development manager for VW.
On the SE and SEL models, rear vents were added for better climate control, he said.
In terms of safety, a backup camera is standard on the SEL model, Swager said.
"It's definitely something ... that's a desired feature," he said.
In addition, the midsize sedan's navigation system database was updated, Swager said.
"We want to make sure it's the latest and the greatest," he said.
After receiving feedback from customers and VW staff, work began last year to make improvements to the Passat for the 2013 model with the building of preproduction units, officials said.
Guenther Scherelis, VW's general manager of communications in Chattanooga, said managers continue to test drive cars just off the line on a weekly basis. They offer opinions to how to improve the vehicle, he said.
Elliott said any changes to assembling the car on the line have to be carefully introduced, even little ones.
"Small changes can have a big impact to the production system," he said.
All the assembly workers where the changes are put into effect must undergo new training, Elliott said.
That process has become more complex as the German automaker implemented a three-team approach about a month ago as it has boosted production and its employee head count.
"It has to be right 600 times a day," he said, referring to the number of vehicles produced at the plant.
The Passat's price has changed as well for the new model year. The base price has jumped about $850 to $20,845, according to VW.
The factory's workforce is up to about 3,350 and is aiming to hit about 3,500 by the end of the year.