Volkswagen's Chattanooga plant, which this year started production of the automaker's biggest American-made vehicle ever with the Atlas midsize SUV, could also assemble one of VW's newest.
The German company unveiled Wednesday an all-electric SUV concept called the I.D. Crozz that's slated for sale in the United States in 2020, and Chattanooga eventually will be eyed as a production location, according to a German automotive website.
Assembly of the vehicle that's about the size of a VW Tiguan compact SUV will first take place at a plant in Zwickau, Germany, and later in Chattanooga, reported Automobilwoche.
Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book, said local production is "always better from a cost perspective" for an automaker.
Christy Gillenwater, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's new chief executive, called VW "a tremendous partner."
"It's exciting to see when businesses have an opportunity to grow and thrive here," she said.
The I.D. Crozz concept, shown for the first time in America at the Los Angeles Auto Show, would be the first of several new all-electric vehicles the car company plans to bring to the U.S.
"The I.D. Crozz-based electric vehicle will be an affordable and stylish electric SUV — and there is more to come," said Hinrich J. Woebcken, CEO of Volkswagen Group of America.
The I.D. Buzz, an all-electric vehicle that recalls the iconic VW Microbus, will arrive in the U.S. in 2022, according to the company.
The modular electric platform the vehicles share will underpin all future Volkswagen-branded electric vehicles, the company said, and make possible its goal to build 15 different VW EVs globally by 2025.
Brauer said Volkswagen is "very aggressive" in the electric vehicle space and has picked its course, and is now executing its plan. VW is taking "a calculated risk," but the auto industry is moving in that direction, he said.
Even though EV sales are still small compared to the entire market, there has been a shift from the electric vehicle as a toy or a third car to a full-fledged replacement as a single-family car, Brauer said.
"Price is the key," he said. VW has said the I.D. Crozz is slated to sell for about the same size vehicle with an internal combustion engine.
"It's the breakthrough EVs never had before and always needed," Brauer said. He cited the recent emergence of the Chevrolet Bolt as "the first real electric car" because of its range and price.
The I.D. Crozz will combine a lithium-ion battery pack with a pair of electric motors, one on each axle. The front motor will generate 101 horsepower and the rear 201 for a combined system output of 302 horsepower, according to VW. The concept vehicle will offer an anticipated range of up to 300 miles.
All Volkswagen I.D. vehicles will be designed to speed recharging time over today's models, and the Crozz recovers 80 percent of its charge in 30 minutes via a 150 kWh DC charger, the company said.
The Chattanooga assembly plant's production of the Atlas SUV came after a $900 million investment by VW. The factory also bulked up its workforce so it now employs about 3,450 people making the Atlas and the Passat sedan.
In addition, Dr. Herbert Diess, the head of the global Volkswagen brand, said in Chattanooga a couple of months ago that it's "highly likely" the German automaker will bring a five-seat derivative of the Atlas SUV to the market.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318.