F rom 85,000 applicants, Volkswagen has hired more than 1,500 workers and begun filling second-shift production jobs at its Chattanooga auto assembly plant.
"We are on schedule with our hiring plan," Hans-Herbert Jagla, executive vice president of human resources, said Wednesday.
The German automaker expects to hire between 2,000 and 2,500 workers in Chattanooga and so far has brought on 674 production team members, according to VW. Its aim is to drive that number to 1,200.
VW employee Comekia Mikes, of Chattanooga, hired about a year ago, said the job has been better than expected.
"I thought we'd come in and they'd show us what to do. They took time to care about us," she said. "They showed that it was about us."
Tim Spires, the Chattanooga Regional Manufacturers Association's chief executive, said every new manufacturing job is important.
"It supports the people who supply into manufacturing and affects those jobs and the construction industry," he said.
VW's production wages start at $14.50 per hour, increasing gradually to $19.50 per hour after 36 months.
VW has filled nearly all of the production slots, or 96 percent of them, with workers from Hamilton County. State and local governments committed incentives worth an estimated $577.4 million for the VW assembly plant.
J.Ed. Marston, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's vice president of marketing, said the business group encouraged the hiring of local workers.
He added that VW's achieving the 1,500 jobs milestone is gratifying considering the challenging economy.
According to VW, hiring will continue through 2011 as the plant reaches full production making the all-new 2012 Passat.
Jagla said VW's Chattanooga operation still has a long way to go.
"There is still a lot of opportunity for those who want to join our team," he said, terming the existing group trainable, capable and passionate about the quality of their work.
Don Jackson, VW's president of manufacturing in Chattanooga, said new hires are immersed in the company's "passion for detail."