Will Chattanooga be the site of a new Volkswagen electric vehicle plant?

Volkswagen official says Chattanooga is a 'natural fit' for electric vehicle plant

Volkswagen employees perform checks as vehicles move down the assembly line at the Volkswagen Assembly Plant Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Each vehicle goes through variety of inspections before reaching the end of the assembly line.


Volkswagen aims to get 27 electric vehicle models into production worldwide by the end of 2022.

Volkswagen could make electric vehicles in Chattanooga by 2022, with the automaker's board member for e-mobility calling the Scenic City "a natural fit," according to a media outlet.

But board member Thomas Ulbrich told reporters in Dresden, Germany, on Thursday that there's no decision yet about putting an electric vehicle plant in Chattanooga, the website Road/Show reported.

"There is no decision done so far," Ulbrich said. "We think there's a natural fit to Chattanooga, but there's no planning done so far."

Also, Ulbrich didn't deny that such an electric vehicle plant also could be set up in Mexico, Road/Show said.

Earlier this week, VW unveiled the production platform for which its array of planned electric vehicles would be assembled. Dubbed MEB, it's VW's next-generation electric platform on which the production versions of its "I.D." concept electric vehicles are based.

A Golf-sized vehicle is expected to be VW's first mass-market EV for the model year 2020. VW also has shown the I.D. Vizzion sedan, the crossover all-electric I.D. Crozz Concept, and there's the I.D. Buzz electric microbus coming in 2022.

Antonio Pinto, chief executive of the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant, said in an interview this summer that electric vehicles could be made in the factory with new equipment and some optimization of space.

"That's it," he said. "We would like to have electric cars here. It's not decided."

Pinto cited VW's ambitious electric vehicle plans, saying the German automaker wants to be "much more successful than Tesla in the long run."

Michael Hartley, an analyst for Kelley Blue Book, said he believes a vehicle such as a pure-electric Golf made to run on battery power will be key for VW.

He added that the I.D. Buzz, which gets its styling cues from the iconic Microbus of the 1960s, has been getting a lot of attention. But, he said, he's unsure how much it will sell when it hits the market in 2022.

Hartley said the current electric vehicle market has captured only about 1 percent of all sales in the U.S.

"Shoppers aren't embracing EVs," he said.

Still, Volkswagen aims to get 27 models in production worldwide by the end of 2022. The German car maker said this spring it would build at least 16 new electric vehicle plants by 2025, nine of which will be in operation by 2020, in Europe, China and North America.

A Volkswagen Group of America spokeswoman said this spring that while there was no official announcement, Chattanooga would be "the natural choice" for such an electric vehicle plant.

The Chattanooga plant now employs about 3,500 people making the Passat midsize sedan and seven-seat Atlas SUV.

Next year, a five-seat Atlas will be assembled in Chattanooga, along with a 2020 model Passat that will receive a full makeover.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.