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Workers watch as the new Volkswagen Atlas is parked for display during an open house earlier this year for parts supplier Yanfeng Automotive Interiors in Chattanooga.
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The price of the new Volkswagen Atlas will start at $30,500 as the Chattanooga-made sport utility vehicle goes head to head with competitors such as the Toyota Highlander and Ford Explorer.

The starting price is for the four-cylinder turbo 2.0L TSI S FWD model, the German automaker said Tuesday. At $31,900, the 3.6-liter V6 S FWD model will be available, the company said.

"The pricing is about right," said Michael Harley, a Kelley Blue Book analyst.

He said the pricing for the three-row Atlas, which will go on sale at dealerships in May, doesn't put it into the premium SUV class but rather is "a good mid-market SUV."

According to VW, the Atlas will offer an eight-speed automatic transmission with its two powertrains: the four-cylinder turbocharged and direct-injection 2.0-liter TSI engine, which produces 235 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, and the 3.6-liter VR6 engine, which makes 276-horsepower and 266 foot-pound of torque.

An optional 4Motion all-wheel-drive system is available on VR6 models, the company said.

The Atlas will have five trim levels "priced for the heart of the competitive SUV market," according to VW. The vehicle will be the only one in its class to offer an automatic post-collision braking system, the automaker said.

Jesse Toprak, chief executive of automotive website carhub.com, said the Atlas and a redesigned Tiguan small SUV to be introduced this summer should give VW a much-needed boost in sales.

"SUVs are a strong segment now," he said, adding that VW is "lucky for a change" and appears to have the right product that's appealing to the market.

As VW starts marketing its new SUV, the Chattanooga assembly plant is busy pumping out the new vehicle. Atlas SUVs can be seen at the plant's vehicle staging area awaiting shipment to dealerships across the country.

Meanwhile, VW continues to seek employees to join the plant's workforce as the company aims at having about 3,400 employees on board this year.

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

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