A Volkswagen dealer said Monday he likes the look of what's believed to be the new midsize sedan scheduled for production at the automaker's Chattanooga plant.
"I can't wait," said Dale Smith, general manager of Village Volkswagen in Chattanooga, after viewing photos purported to be of the car. "If it comes in at the price point they're talking about, I'm sure our sales will triple or quadruple."
Volkswagen has assembled at least 30 of the initial test versions of the midsize sedan it will make in Chattanooga, according to the German carmaker.
The so-called "pre-series cars" are undergoing on-the-road trials to make improvements to the vehicle, which will be produced early next year for sale later in 2011.
In June, one of the first versions of the car was sent to a location VW wouldn't disclose for "summer evaluation."
Brenda Priddy of Brenda Priddy & Co. said she recently shot "spy photos" of the new midsize sedan in the Arizona desert. Automakers "do a lot (of testing) in the Southwest," she said.
VW officials had no immediate comment on the photos, which first appeared Monday on the Chattanooga Times Free Press website.
From the photos, Smith said the new car "looks large," but it needs to be to compete against the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.
This year's VW Passat, which the new car is expected to replace in the United States, is a little smaller and quite a bit more expensive than the projected $20,000 entry-level cost of the new sedan, he said.
ABOUT BRENDA PRIDDY
Residence: Phoenix, Ariz.
Job: Heads Brenda Priddy & Co.
What she does: Takes and sells spy photos of new vehicles scheduled to be produced by major automakers
When she started: 18 years ago
How business has changed: Magazines don't buy as many photos because by the time they get to press, "it's old news."
Quote: "I raised two kids doing this."
Michelle Krebs, senior analyst for the auto website Edmunds.com, said the midsize car market is a growing one in the United States.
"It's a safe-bet kind of market," she said.
Buyers are moving down from sport utility vehicles but not purchasing small economy cars in huge numbers, she noted.
There also are a lot of lease deals offered for midsize cars right now, she added.
Frank Fischer, chief executive of VW's Chattanooga operations, said last week that workers at the plant that's still under construction are "building the vehicles now actually on the line."
But Fischer said the focus of the first of the new midsize sedans is on research and development issues.
"There's a lot of hard work ahead," he said. "We're facing many challenges."
The Chattanooga plant is expected to have the capacity to produce 150,000 vehicles a year and employ more than 2,000 people when fully operational.
In addition to the new sedan, Volkswagen officials have said they're looking at the possibility of producing Audis at the plant. And a sport utility vehicle has been suggested as a vehicle that potentially could be made at the plant.
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