VW Chattanooga signs support for its military employees

Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Volkswagen Chattanooga CEO Chris Glover, right, signs a document Tuesday alongside Bill Hewitt of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserves program.

Volkswagen Chattanooga, with about 200 of its workers in active military service or reservists, on Tuesday penned a statement of support for its employees as the plant rapidly ramps up its workforce.

Chris Glover, the plant's chief executive, said the signing is an indicator of the automaker's intention to support the employees' schedules and ensure their jobs are secure.

"It reinforces our commitment," Glover said Tuesday at a ceremony at the plant.

Bill Hewitt, representing the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve program, said he frequently represents the U.S. Department of Defense effort at such events, and this was the first time for a company headquartered in Germany.

"I hope this is the start of something great in the future," he said at the ceremony.

Hewitt said the signing shows that members of the Guard and Reserve aren't discriminated against.

The intent of the program is to increase employer support by encouraging companies to act as advocates for worker participation in the military, acknowledging that it's critical to maintaining the strength and readiness of the nation's Guard and Reserve units.

Glover said that signing the statement of support comes as the VW plant is increasing the number of its employees as it prepares to launch assembly of the factory's first electric vehicle.

He said people with a military background "are more than welcome in our company."

The plant is more than halfway through filling 1,000 jobs in connection with production of the ID.4 battery-powered SUV along with the existing Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport SUVs. The plant employs about 4,000 people.

Volkswagen has invested $800 million over the past few years to gear up for EV production.

While the plant won't build its first electric SUVs until what Glover said was a "summer-fall" time frame, the automaker already has sold out of the vehicles it will make this year because of demand and supply issues, the company said.

"All the ID.4 basically this year is sold out," said Burkhard Ulrich, Volkswagen Chattanooga's president of human resources, at a news conference earlier this summer. "It's good for our team members. They know they'll be working on a car that has such a strong customer demand."

Volkswagen's entire group, which also includes Audi and Porsche, has sold out of electric vehicles in the United States and Europe this year via pre-orders, according to the automaker.

The first employer support group statement was signed Dec. 13, 1972, by the chairman of the board of General Motors, according to the program.

Contact Mike Pare at [email protected] or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.