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Staff file photo by Erin O. Smith / A Volkswagen employee waits to drive a new Atlas SUV off the assembly line after a few tests at the automaker's Chattanooga plant.

Volkswagen on Tuesday reported higher U.S. April sales on the strength of SUVs, but the Chattanooga plant is temporarily parking new Atlas vehicles because of a shortage of front grilles.

A fire at a supplier to the assembly plant created the shortage and while Atlas production is ongoing, the new SUVs are parked awaiting the final installation of the grilles, said plant spokesman Keith King.

He said the factory will source the parts from a supplier that assembles grilles for the Volkswagen Teramont, which is what the seven-seat Atlas is called in other parts of the world.

"As we wait for the supplier to ramp up production to meet the new capacity, vehicles will be held on site here at Volkswagen Chattanooga," King said.

King said VW did not see any affect on Atlas sales in April because of the problem.

"We have identified a new supplier and we are hopeful that there will be minimum impact for deliveries for May and beyond," he said.

In April, Volkswagen of America reported that sales climbed 4.5 percent over the same period a year ago.

VW sales totaled 28,794 units last month, with the Atlas accounting for 5,404 of that figure, the company reported. Sales of the all-new 2018 Tiguan totaled 7,637 units.

For the year so far, VW posted an 8.6 percent jump in sales to 112,746 units.

"We are encouraged with the brand's continued growth in the market, driven by the success of our two new SUVs," said Derrick Hatami, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Volkswagen of America. "We are also excited to have the all-new 2019 Jetta going on sale later this month, adding to the positive momentum."

At the same time, sales of the Passat midsize sedan, also made in Chattanooga, were off 34.2 percent to 4,044, according to VW. The market for sedans generally has softened while motorists turn to buying more trucks and SUVs.

Overall sales reflected the impact of Volkswagen's move to offer what it calls "a more family-friendly lineup." SUVs accounted for nearly 50 percent of total volume for the Volkswagen brand in year-over-year sales in April.

The all-new 2019 Jetta is expected to arrive at VW dealerships later this month. According to the German automaker, the 2019 Jetta offers a bolder design, more interior space and new technology.

VW was one of the few auto companies reporting an increase in April, which had two fewer sales days than a year ago.

Ford Motor Co posted a 4.7 percent decline in sales compared to April 2017. Sales totaled 204,651 vehicles. Fleet sales were down 8.6 percent.

Nissan Group announced total U.S. sales for April of 87,764 units, falling 28 percent compared to the previous year. Trucks and SUVs fell 23.1 percent in the month.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles reported sales rose 5 percent last month to 184,149 vehicles. Jeep brand reports record April sales, up 20 percent.

Toyota Motor North America had a 4.7 percent drop in sales for April to 192,348.

Honda Motor Co. reported April sales declined 9.2 percent to 125,701 vehicles.

General Motors no longer reports monthly sales but rather will do so on a quarterly basis.

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

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