Sen. Corker optimistic on VW growth

Sen. Corker optimistic on VW growth

October 13th, 2011 in Opinion Free Press

It is thrilling to contemplate not only Volkswagen's current $1 billion investment in a manufacturing plant in Chattanooga, but the possibility of VW significantly expanding operations and employment here.

Thousands of local workers are already producing Passats at the large VW plant at Enterprise South industrial park.

But we may have even more to look forward to in the coming months and years where VW is concerned.

VW recently said it plans to invest, worldwide, roughly $86 billion over the next five years, in its effort to become the world's biggest car manufacturer.

While it is unclear what portion of that could be invested in Chattanooga, it is certainly interesting that the local VW plant has a great deal of room for expansion. Jonathan Browning, CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, noted that the Chattanooga plant could readily boost production from 150,000 vehicles to 250,000 vehicles annually if it added some lines in its paint shop. And with the remaining land that VW has at Enterprise South, it could boost total production to 500,000 cars per year by building another plant on the property there, Browning said.

The prospects obviously encourage U.S. Sen. Bob Corker of Chattanooga, who said during the annual meeting of the Chattanooga Regional Manufacturers Association that VW considers Chattanooga "the kind of place they can flourish. I think they will, and I think there will be more happen here."

One tantalizing possibility is that VW will build an Audi assembly plant at Enterprise South. Audi is Volkswagen's luxury brand, and VW plans to make a decision within a few months on where in North America to build an Audi plant.

Clearly it would boost both the local economy and Chattanooga's already-growing prestige in the international business community if VW decided to build the Audi facility here.

But whatever Volkswagen decides, Corker sees "tremendous opportunity" for local VW expansions of one type or another.

That opportunity is exhilarating as Chattanooga looks forward to even bigger economic successes in the not-too-distant future.