Chattanooga: Volkswagen lifts veil on planned local sedan

Chattanooga: Volkswagen lifts veil on planned local sedan

February 13th, 2009 by Andy Johns in Local Regional News

It's not the bubbly, bouncy look of the VW Bug.

And it certainly doesn't look like the VW Thing, the ugly kid brother of the Army's jeep.

A sketch of the new VW model slated to be built in Chattanooga shows a sleek machine with low-profile tires, aerodynamic lines and a slightly dangerous air.

"It's looks like a nice, handsome car that could easily be a Volkswagen," said Richard Baron, the design director at Road and Track magazine.

"It's awesome. I Iove the lines," said Brad Cobb, a manager at the Volkswagen of Chattanooga dealership.

Volkswagen's board released a single image Thursday showing the company's new vehicle. VW spokeswoman Jill Bratina said the four-door car, known at this point only as the NMS for "new midsized sedan," will be slightly larger than the Passat.

"NMS" specifications

* NMS stands for "New midsized sedan"

* Front engine

* Four doors

* 30 percent of sedans produced will run on diesel

* Hybrid version planned for future

* Expanded cupholders, trunk and legroom

* Six-speed dual-clutch transmission

* Produced in Chattanooga for American market

* Engine size, drive position, horsepower, fuel efficiency and starting price not yet released

Source: Volkswagen officials

"This is really the first image to date that shows the conceptual look of the car," Ms. Bratina said.

The NMS is VW's second vehicle designed solely for the U.S. market - the first was the Routan minivan - and its design reflects its target market.

"The U.S. driving public is used to a little bit bigger vehicles," Ms. Bratina said.

Ms. Bratina would not reveal any specifications such as engine size, horsepower, fuel efficiency or whether the NMS will be front-wheel or rear-wheel drive. She said it would be a front-engine design, and 30 percent of the cars produced will run on diesel.

VW officials confirmed reports that NMS will have a larger trunk, bigger cup-holders and more legroom than its European cousins. Officials also said it would have a six-speed dual-clutch transmission and the company would add a hybrid version after a few years of the conventional model's production.

The image is the only one available of the NMS for the time being, according to Ms. Bratina.

Mr. Baron said the drawing gives few clues but looked feasible for production. But he added that many such concept drawings bear little resemblance to their aluminum-and-plastic reality.

"Sometimes the concept cars don't look anything like the actual cars," he said. "A lot of times the production cars get watered down a little bit."

Mr. Baron noted that the drawing does not have a visible pillar between the windows of the front and rear doors, which he said is a fairly common piece artists leave out to make the design look sleek. Still, he said he was impressed by the drawing.

Although the new VW will square off against Chevrolet's Malibu and Japanese heavyweights like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, Mr. Cobb said it would sell well in Chattanooga for obvious reasons but also should do well nationally.

"Hey, I'll drive one," he said.

Local leaders were impressed as well, using words like sleek, sporty, modern and exciting to describe the sketch.

"It reminds me of drawings of cars of the future that dazzled me as a teenager," Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield said.

"I think it is different than anything else they've ever built," Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey said.

Ms. Bratina said the company had not set a timetable for when it would release more information about the car, which is slated to begin production once the plant opens in 2011.