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This story was updated Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019, at 11:17 p.m. with more information.

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UPDATE: Volkswagen marks $800 million expansion in Chattanooga; adding 1,000 jobs, 700,000 square feet to plant

 

ORIGINAL STORY: 

Volkswagen Chattanooga upshifts Wednesday into "G" for growth mode.

Volkswagen of America's chief executive, Gov. Bill Lee, key members of VW's dealer council and local leaders are to break ground on an $800 million plant expansion. The automaker plans to assemble electric vehicles at the facility and hire upwards of 1,000 more workers.

Also Wednesday, the car company is to start airing new TV commercials nationally that were filmed in Chattanooga and feature VW employees at the 3,800-person plant.

The commercials align with the carmaker's "sign and drive" sales campaign and show employees both inside and outside the factory.

Meanwhile, the ground breaking for the EV facility will take place adjacent to the existing plant. When the new production site is finished by 2022, the German company expects to make a battery-powered SUV.

some text Staff photo by Tim Barber/ Brittany Mule says she thinks retiring at VW after her career is a big possibility. Mule and three others, Tim Reid, Chris Marshall and Ben Johnson gathered Tuesday morning to view new commercials featuring Volkswagen and VW Chattanooga employees.

Scott Keogh, Volkswagen Group of America's CEO, said in Chattanooga earlier this fall during the launch of the Atlas Cross Sport, the five-seat version of the existing Atlas SUV, that there's a future opportunity for the brand when it comes to electric vehicles.

"I'm excited to give that thing a real crack," he said.

VW Chattanooga employees included in the TV commercials said they're looking forward to the plant expansion and the sale of the Cross Sport, which will hit dealerships early next year.

"I'm super-excited about this," said Brittany Mulé, who has worked at the factory for more than eight years, adding that she's hopeful of retiring from VW some day.

Jobs at the factory will be there for her children if they want them, she added.

Chris Marshall, a nine-year employee in the assembly department, said he's happy to see VW investing in Chattanooga and creating more jobs here.

"When they bring jobs, that flows money through the community," he said.

Tim Reid, who has worked in assembly for three years, said he strives to do his best in his job.

"I feel like my name is on that car," he said in one spot. "I'm proud of that."

Ben Johnson, who works in quality assurance, said he comes from four generations of race car drivers.

"I definitely feel like cars are in my DNA," he said.

The commercials offer viewers the tagline "We sign off, so you can sign on."

some text Staff photo by Tim Barber/ Volkswagen Chattanooga employee Chris Marshall reacts to watching commercials which include himself and other VW employees Tuesday.

Marshall, who said he was recommended by a couple of managers for the commercials, noted that the production crew came to his residence and set up trailers on his street.

He quipped that a number of his neighbors came out to see what was going on and were told that a mayonnaise commercial was being filmed so people wouldn't know it was VW.

The production crew also filmed around the city, hitting landmarks and photographing Mule at Nikki's Drive-Inn, for example.

Also, some 1,500 VW dealers nationwide are in Chattanooga this week, according to the automaker.

Chattanooga's EV plant will hold what the automaker terms "the backbone of the technology" — a battery system located beneath the cars known as the Modular Electric Toolkit (MEB) on which all of the brand's electric cars will sit.

VW, which announced it was building its only U.S. plant in 2008, is the most richly incentivized company ever in Tennessee, having received more than $850 million in federal, state and local perks since landing in the Volunteer State.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

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