Volkswagen Chattanooga plans to hire more than 500 additional workers this year, putting its employee headcount at 5,500 and solidifying it as Hamilton County's largest private employer.
"There's high demand for all of the cars. All three vehicles are doing well," said Burkhard Ulrich, VW Chattanooga's senior vice president for human resources.
The plant, which employs over 4,900 people, builds the electric ID.4 SUV along with the conventionally powered Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport SUVs.
Ulrich said in an online interview that the automaker is hiring production employees primarily for its second and third shifts for its assembly, body and paint shops as well as logistics workers. All the new employees will be directly hired by VW and eligible for benefits on day one, he said.
The VW Chattanooga official said the plant is building about 51 vehicles per hour now, and next year expects to top that figure and reach production capacity per hour.
"When you increase output, you need to increase the number of people," he said.
The starting hourly wage rate for second and third shifts can reach $24.40 with shift premium and quarterly bonus based on attendance, Ulrich said. With wage progression, top-out rates including shift premium and quarterly bonus can reach $33 per hour, he said.
Ulrich said a job fair is slated on June 2 at the plant's Volkswagen Academy, where interested people can attend information sessions and learn about the posts, pay, benefits and schedule. He said Volkswagen staff will provide an overview of the onboarding process, medical assessment and training.
The VW Chattanooga official said the plant is now "in its teenage years," with production having started in 2011 at its sprawling Enterprise South industrial park site with a pledge to hire about 2,000 workers. The factory built its millionth vehicle in mid-2020.
Since then, the German automaker finished an $800 million expansion and last year brought on about 1,000 more employees to assemble the electric ID.4 SUV along with the Atlas family.
"We're one of the preferred employers in the area," Ulrich said. "VW is successful. People like working for a successful company. There's the potential for personal growth."
Hamilton County Schools is the county's largest employer, public or private, with 5,375 full-time workers along with 966 part-timers, according to the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce. Erlanger employs 4,632 full-timers and 1,434 part-timers, Chamber figures show. VW doesn't have any part-time workers, according to the automaker.
Health insurer BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee employs roughly 4,500, according to the company. Snack-maker McKee Foods has 3,849 people assigned to its Collegedale location, though 482 live out of state as field sales posts, the company said.
Volkswagen Chattanooga's hiring effort comes as sales of its ID.4 battery-powered vehicle are taking off with plans to assemble 90,000 of the new vehicles in 2023.
John Boyd, a principal in the company site selection firm The Boyd Co., said in a recent interview that VW Chattanooga is "a trophy plant" for the area as it tries to attract more suppliers and other businesses.
The Boyd Co. named the Chattanooga region as one of the three best sites in the United States to attract new electric vehicle equipment manufacturing and jobs, citing the area's low operating costs. Boyd said the presence of Volkswagen's production plant is a competitive advantage for the metro area.
"The area is a magnet for suppliers in related industries," he said.
According to VW, the auto group saw 26% growth in EV deliveries in 2022 worldwide and achieved an overall EV market share of 7%. EVs now account for 16% of the group's order book, the company said.
The group's best-selling EVs in 2022 were the ID.4 and ID.5, a coupe version of the ID.4, at 193,200 units, and the ID.3 at 76,600 units, the company said.
VW JOB FAIR
Volkswagen Chattanooga will hold an onsite job fair from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. June 2. People may also apply online at wearevolkswagen.com.