Volkswagen has a good problem with its diesel Passat

Volkswagen has a good problem with its diesel Passat

March 6th, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

Stephen Thomas, of Cleveland, Tenn., recently took delivery of a Chattanooga-made diesel Passat.

Photo by Tim Barber/Times Free Press.

The fact that the Volkswagen manufacturing plant at Chattanooga's Enterprise South industrial park is struggling to keep up with demand for the diesel version of VW's popular Passat is a good problem to have.

Of course, a potential four-month wait from the time an order is placed for one of the diesel sedans until it arrives at the dealership may not be a fun prospect for someone who is eager to get the car. But that's better than making a vehicle that few people want to buy -- such as the Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in electric hybrid whose sales have lagged despite costly federal subsidies.

You may not get a $7,500 subsidy from Washington for the diesel Passat, but that hasn't dimmed its popularity. And in a time of gas prices approaching $4 per gallon, we can see why: It gets roughly 43 miles per gallon on the highway, and a tank of gas is good for about 800 miles.

But the benefit to the Chattanooga area of the popularity of the various versions of the Passat is mainly what it signifies for the local economy. The VW plant is already employing hundreds more workers than it originally estimated it would need. And there is talk of producing an additional VW of some type in this area -- possibly the luxury brand Audi.

The success of the Passat -- Motor Trend magazine's Car of the Year -- can only make it clearer to VW officials that their selection of Chattanooga was a wise choice, and that our workforce is capable of great things. Will one of those things be production of another type of VW?

We may know soon.