Volkswagen plans to donate 31 Chattanooga-made Atlas SUVs, along with diagnostics equipment, to high-school auto technician programs, technical schools and career centers across the country.
The goal is to help address the growing need for trained automotive technicians who understand both the hardware and the increasingly complex software in modern vehicles, according to the automaker that has an assembly plant in Chattanooga.
"There is a national shortage of technicians, and it's expected to grow as many technicians are, or are very close to, retirement age," said Jon Meredith, Volkswagen national service operations manager. "We have to start looking for avenues to backfill these individuals,"
As an industry, it needs to come up with different ways of thinking and doing to attract young people, said Meredith.
"As a vehicle manufacturer, Volkswagen sees tremendous value in partnering with dealers and the technical and trade schools in their markets to bring both the Volkswagen product and diagnostic equipment to the younger generation considering a career in the automotive industry," he said.
Darin Lewis, an automotive instructor at Ohio's Medina County Career Center, said the Volkswagen Atlas and software will be the newest vehicle in his school's training fleet by a decade.
"It goes far beyond donating a physical car. With the technology, they are providing their entry-level curriculum," Lewis said. "I look back when I was in school and you were either a Ford guy or a Chevy guy. Those days are long gone.