VW: Our local cars!

VW: Our local cars!

April 8th, 2011 in Opinion Free Press

Ask a prospective car buyer, and you likely will find he wants more than just a means to get from A to B.

Sure, cars are for transportation, but drivers want them to have an appealing style and perhaps room to carry a family as well, plus amenities to make the ride more comfortable.

Yet more and more car buyers these days are also seeking vehicles that get better gas mileage and produce less pollution. And even those of us who aren't in the market for a vehicle want automakers' manufacturing processes to be as clean and conservation-minded as reasonably possible - while still producing autos that people want to buy.

On Thursday, two Volkswagen officials assured our community that the big new VW plant at Enterprise South industrial park will work vigorously to protect the environment while building fuel-efficient vehicles that customers will find attractive.

Volkswagen's goal is "to become not only the economic leader but the environmental leader" in the auto industry, said Gerhard Pratorius, who leads Volkswagen's social responsibility and sustainability programs.

"It was the right decision" to come to Chattanooga, he said. He and Guenther Scherelis, general manager of communications for Volkswagen Group of America in Chattanooga, praised this area's openness to VW's cutting-edge environmental efforts.

Scherelis noted that the paint shop at the plant at Enterprise South will use less energy than traditional paint shops, and will use 50,000 fewer gallons of water per day. Among other conservation measures at the VW operation are energy-efficient lighting and environmentally friendly landscaping. Plus, the company will use rail service for the efficient shipment of 85 percent of the cars made here.

The diesel-engine Passats built in Chattanooga are projected to get about 43 miles per gallon on the highway. That's obviously appealing in a time of high fuel prices.

Equally appealing is the fact that up to 2,500 people in this area will have good jobs thanks to VW's $1 billion investment, and Passats are to begin rolling off the local assembly line this month. The Chattanooga plant will be able to build up to 150,000 cars per year - a figure that could increase in time.

The local economic benefits and VW's conservation-minded production values are heartily welcome.