Auto suppliers hiring in Chattanooga despite VW's dilemma

Auto suppliers hiring in Chattanooga despite VW's dilemma

February 19th, 2016 by Mike Pare in Business
Staff Photo by Dan Henry / Daniil Krivolapov fills out an application during a job fair for Gestamp at Chattanooga State Community College on Thursday.

Staff Photo by Dan Henry / Daniil Krivolapov...

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Gestamp expansion

› The company, which started operating at Enterprise South industrial park in 2009, makes stamped parts and welded assemblies for the Passat sedan. The company will press body sheet metal and make chassis components for the planned new VW SUV.

› Gestamp is hiring for tool and die and maintenance journeymen, engineers, quality techs, weld/destruct techs and other skilled trades.

Andy Nelson of Chattanooga said Thursday he is confident the automotive cluster in Chattanooga is growing and he wants to be part of it.

"Automotive will advance in Chattanooga," the 35-year-old job applicant said at a job fair for Volkswagen supplier Gestamp. "I think there are more jobs coming here. It's all having to do with the Volkswagen plant."

Despite VW's diesel emission issues, Gestamp's construction of a new plant next to VW's supplier park at Enterprise South industrial park is on track, said April Counts, a spokeswoman for the Spanish company. She said plans are for the new facility to be ready in the spring and to start building body parts for the sport utility vehicle that VW is to begin assembling by year's end.

Gestamp actually has three construction projects going on in the city. The $180 million worth of expansions are projected to add 510 more people. It's the biggest single investment ever by a VW supplier in Hamilton County.

Another Gestamp plant is going up off Jersey Pike in the former Farley's & Sathers candy company facility. Also, the company is expanding its existing Hickory Valley Road plant where it employs about 300 people.

Next week, Chinese supplier Yanfeng Automotive Interiors will hold a job fair for its new production plant near VW. That company is investing $55 million into a Bonnyshire Drive facility to supply parts for VW and hire 325 people.

Julius Gunn, also of Chattanooga, said he was applying for a Gestamp job because he's interested in mechatronics, which involves working on mechanical and electrical/ electronic systems.

"It's something I want to get into," the 32-year-old man said.

If there's no immediate openings in that field, Gunn said, he's open to working on the manufacturing side of the business.

Perry McDonald, 43, said he already has had experience in the auto industry at a sub-assembly business and would be a good fit at Gestamp.

"It's developing rapidly," the Chattanooga man said about the local automotive sector.

Sheila Albritton, Chattanooga State's director of career services, said the college is partnering with the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce for the Gestamp and Yanfeng job fairs at Chattanooga State.

"We have the students we can train and can move into the workforce," she said.

The job fairs come as VW deals with the fallout of the diesel emissions scandal.

Volkswagen late last year ceased production of diesel-powered 2016 Passat sedans at its Chattanooga plant while it awaits a fix to the vehicles hit by the emissions rigging.

In January, U.S. sales of the Passat fell to the third lowest monthly mark since production of the sedan started in Chattanooga in mid-2011, the company reported. The sales drop reflected the company's ongoing struggles in the wake of the diesel emissions scandal as well as an industrywide softness in sedan sales as SUVs and trucks take off.

Still, the $600 million plant expansion to assemble a midsize SUV is moving ahead, according to the company.

Mike Randle, publisher of Southern Business & Development magazine, said he believes VW should have built the SUV first at the Chattanooga plant rather than the Passat.

"The most successful plants are SUV plants," he said.

VW admitted last year to installing so-called defeat devices on 2.0-liter diesel engines in some of its most popular models, including the Beetle, Jetta, Golf and Passat.

There are about 500,000 Volkswagen 2.0-liter diesel models on the road in the U.S. affected by that recall.

California regulators last month rejected a recall plan for those models as "incomplete and substantially deficient."

Also last month, the U.S. Justice Department, representing the EPA, filed a civil suit that could potentially expose VW to more than $20 billion in fines under the Clean Air Act. VW also is facing numerous lawsuits by owners of the affected vehicles.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.


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