Volkswagen is one of the world's largest automakers, but the German company has gotten behind bicycling in a big way.
Scott Vazin, Volkswagen of America's vice president of brand communications, said that VW's support of the USA Pro Cycling Championships in Chattanooga is part of the carmaker's "Think Blue" efforts.
Think Blue is what Volkswagen calls its goal of creating environmentally friendly products and solutions, encouraging more eco-conscious behavior and contributing to a sustainable future. The aim is being more responsible on the road and environmentally conscious, not just in its cars but everywhere, according to the company.
"It's trying to have a social impact on society as well," said Vazin.
He said the partnership between VW and USA Cycling allows the company to expand a message that's bigger than the automaker.
"It's about fitness, being engaged, the safety of biking and the fun of it as well," Vazin said. "We're not trying to promote cars all the time."
Still, the partnership makes VW the official car of USA Cycling and includes its participation in 17 national championship events run by USA Cycling throughout the United States.
Brian Thomas, general manager of brand marketing for Volkswagen of America, said when the deal was announced that the partnership with USA Cycling represents VW's commitment to sustainability and community growth.
"Volkswagen began to lay the groundwork here and elsewhere for sustained growth in the United States over the past couple of years," Thomas said. "We're very pleased with the progress we made and the car that we are producing is selling in big volumes and people love it."
The Chattanooga plant, which makes the midsize Passat sedan, will even host the individual time trial portion of the championships.
Vazin said VW supports other cycling events as well.
In January 2012, Volkswagen of America signed a two-year partnership with Bikes Belong to help develop biking-friendly communities, foster healthy lifestyles and create a cleaner environment.
VW agreed to donate vehicles and funding to support three core Bikes Belong advocacy and urban planning initiatives: Peopleforbikes.org, Safe Routes to School National Partnership and Bicycling Design Best Practices.
"Volkswagen's commitment to environmental sustainability extends beyond our fuel-efficient vehicles and company practices," said Jonathan Browning, chief executive of Volkswagen Group of America, in a statement.
Staff Writer Jim Tanner contributed to this story.
Contact staff writer Mike Pare at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6318.