VW looks to fill Chattanooga plant with new production, workers

Weekly hiring, electric cars eyed in advance of start to SUV assembly

Staff Photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press - 9/20/12. New Volkswagen Passats are seen behind the Chattanooga assembly plant's building front.

To apply

Interested workers also can go to www.aerotektn.com to apply.

photo Staff file photo by Mike Pare / Volkswagen's new midsize SUV, which will be assembled in Chattanooga, had its world premiere at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Production is to start late this year with sales in early 2017.
photo Dameyne Dixon, center, talks with Aerotek recruitment intern Christian Toledano about his application at a job fair for employment with Volkswagen and supplier Aerotek held at Chattanooga Housing Authority on Tuesday, July 12, 2016, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

A staffing contractor for Volkswagen in Chattanooga plans to hire about 25 people weekly over the next couple of months and 700 more employees by year's end, an official said Tuesday.

"We're seeing hiring pick back up [for VW]," said Lucus Hiler of Aerotek, which is bringing on production and logistics workers for the factory. "A couple of classes have already been hired."

Nearly 25 people showed up in the first 10 minutes of a job fair at the Tennessee Career Center in Eastgate Town Center on Tuesday, which was the second such hiring event this month.

Samuel Houser said he once worked for a contractor at Volkswagen's plant and he's hopeful of hiring on again.

"The money is excellent. The environment and supervision is helpful. It's a company where you can grow," the Chattanooga man said.

VW is readying for assembly of a new midsize sport utility vehicle late this year, and a top official said this week the company is weighing production of electric cars in Chattanooga by 2020 in the wake of the emissions scandal.

Mattie Moran, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's director of workforce development and education, said five more job fairs are planned through the end of August for VW.

With unemployment down in Hamilton County to 3.7 percent in May, time will tell how pressed Aerotek and VW will be to find workers, she said.

"Once we get past the first couple of job fairs, we'll see how it goes," Moran said. Unemployment dropped in May to a 15-year low in the county.

Starting pay for the VW jobs is $13 per hour with bonuses and pay rate increases every six months. A $1 premium is added for night-shift work, Hiler said.

People who want to work in production at VW are first employed for a period of time at Aerotek before later being officially hired by the automaker.

VW is spending $900 million, including $600 million in Tennessee, to expand its Chattanooga factory to make its new SUV. The company has said it plans to ultimately hire 2,000 more employees to its workforce of about 2,500.

Beyond the new SUV line, VW could invest even more in Chattanooga if it decides to also build electric vehicles at its production facility.

Hinrich Woebcken, the new head of VW's U.S. unit, said this week Volkswagen plans to build electric vehicles in North America by 2020, potentially at its Chattanooga plant, according to The Wall Street Journal.

He said Chattanooga or a production facility in Mexico are among options being considered for the production of the new electric vehicles. He declined to give specific details on the search, but said multiple models will be built in North America.

Karl Brauer, senior director of insights for Kelley Blue Book, said if VW could make an electric version of the SUV it plans to assemble at the plant with a range of 200 miles or so before recharging, that would position the carmaker well in terms of sales.

Such a vehicle also would give the automaker an appearance of being innovative in that arena, he said.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.