Volkswagen Chattanooga to hire 150 to meet demand, ready for electrics

Staff file photo / Volkswagen employees work around vehicles moving down the assembly line at the Volkswagen assembly plant in Chattanooga.

Volkswagen Chattanooga plans to hire about 150 production employees by year's end as it meets demand for assembly of its existing vehicles and readies for building an electric SUV.

"Our goal is to extend at least 10 job offers every week for the remainder of the year," said Tom du Plessis, president and chief executive of Volkswagen Chattanooga.

Starting Friday, VW will accept applications for production posts, with applicants having at least three combined years of experience in manufacturing, automotive mechanics or automotive repair, including assembly, welding, heavy equipment and machine operation.

The new employees will directly join the automaker rather than first working for an employment contractor.

The company said Tuesday it will hire primarily for second and third shifts with the starting hourly pay at $20, or $23.20 including a 16% bonus, with wage progressions. Starting wages for day shift is $18.50 per hour, or $21.46, with the bonus.

The new positions are open in the body shop as well as for assembly, paint, quality and logistics, according to VW.

In addition to hiring new production employees, VW is continuing to convert contract workers. The company said it converted 54 production contractors last month, and it will continue to do so once they're eligible.

"We must grow our team to meet the increasing demand for our vehicles, but also to begin preparations for electric vehicle assembly," du Plessis said.

It's the first time since 2009 the company is accepting such direct applications, though early this year VW announced it was aiming to hire 600 more employees through a similar process. Then in March, the company shut down production for a period due to the coronavirus outbreak.

According to VW, hiring and training require in-person interactions. The weekly hiring cadence will enable the company to keep orientation groups small and help prevent and slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Higher sales of its popular seven-seat Atlas SUV, coupled with assembly of the new five-seat Atlas Cross Sport SUV, are leading the German company to bolster hiring, du Plessis has said.

Also, an $800 million plant expansion that's underway is preparing VW to build the new battery-powered SUV by 2022 and more employees are needed for that milestone.

Pre-series production of the new SUV will start in 2021, according to the automaker. Construction on the expansion is on track for completion this year. The vehicle, called the ID.4, will be unveiled on Sept. 23.

The company also will unveil an online platform that will permit buyers to reserve an ID.4 for $100 before the SUV hits showrooms later this year.

"Our online reservations portal will give those who are ready to make the switch to an EV SUV a place at the front of the line," said Duncan Movassaghi, executive vice president, sales and marketing for Volkswagen of America.

Volkswagen employs about 3,800 workers in Chattanooga building the two Atlas SUVs and the Passat sedan.

In July, Aerotek, the Volkswagen plant's contract employer, said it was looking to fill 175 jobs at the plant.

"The jobs at Volkswagen are a great opportunity for individuals who are ready to get back to work and begin a long-term career with a major company," said Jen Blackburn, strategic account executive at Aerotek.

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