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In this 2012 staff file photo, Frank Fischer, CEO and chairman of Volkswagen Group of America Chattanooga Operations, sits in the Volkswagen office.

Updated at 7:52 p.m. on Friday, May 24, 2019, with more information.

The Chattanooga Volkswagen plant's chief executive is taking a new assignment at a facility in Europe while his replacement is a well-known figure at the factory and in the city.

Antonio Pinto is moving to a location in Europe for the German automaker, said plant spokeswoman Amanda Plecas on Friday.

Frank Fischer, his replacement, was the Chattanooga assembly plant's first CEO and oversaw its construction and startup before leaving for another post at a VW plant in Germany in 2014, Plecas said.

Pinto, a native of Portugal, joined the Chattanooga operations in 2017 after then-CEO Christian Koch took another position for the automaker.

Plecas said the CEO change is unrelated to the current union election activities at the factory.

But, members of Southern Momentum, a grassroots group of VW Chattanooga workers who oppose the United Auto Workers, said they're looking forward to Fischer's leadership.

"Frank helped build our plant from the ground up and is loved by our employees," said VW team member Brandi Gengler. "Through Frank's leadership, the Passat was launched into the North American market, and the Atlas is now being built in Chattanooga due in large part to the way he pulled our team together and prepared us for a second line."

Jeremy Metzger, another VW employee, said Fischer "always treated our workforce as family, so it is great to have him back. Being able to welcome Frank home is a wonderful contrast to the noise we have had to endure lately from outsiders who continue to attack our family here at Volkswagen."

The UAW did not immediately return an email seeking comment on the change in CEO at the factory.

Earlier this week, the UAW filed a new petition for a union vote at Chattanooga's plant after the National Labor Relations Board dismissed a similar request made in April.

The new petition requests a vote on June 12, 13 and 14.

Fischer was originally appointed head of the project team for the Chattanooga plant effective Oct. 1, 2008. He left Chattanooga in 2014 to oversee a VW plant in Emden, Germany.

He was credited with overseeing construction of the huge factory amid the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. The factory started production on schedule, and the new-to-America Passat was named Motor Trend's Car of the Year.

Fischer, who has an engineering degree from the University of Washington in Seattle, also helped manage the hiring of over 2,000 employees — most of which had never stepped foot in an auto manufacturing plant before. The plant now employs about 3,500 people.

Fischer, who came to Chattanooga from a post as plant manager at Volkswagen's facility in Brunswick, Germany, has been with the carmaker since 1991.

He became head of body construction at VW's Wolfsburg plant in Germany, and he moved to Emden as production manager in 2001. He was the plant manager at Brunswick from March 2005 before he was picked for the Chattanooga job.

Pinto came to Chattanooga after serving in Puebla, Mexico, where VW has sizable operations. There, Pinto was vice president of production at the plant that is the automaker's biggest outside of its factory in VW's hometown of Wolfsburg.

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

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