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The coronavirus is not only cutting existing jobs at many shuttered restaurants, stores and other small businesses, it is also slowing down the hiring of workers at Chattanooga's biggest manufacturing employer.

Volkswagen announced Tuesday it is delaying its planned application process for hiring more production workers at its Chattanooga assembly plant.

VW of America, which plans to hire another 600 workers to staff its new $800 million electric vehicle production facility in Chattanooga, said it is putting off the planned interviews and hiring of more workers because of growing concerns about the coronavirus.

"Due to the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and out of an abundance of caution, we are postponing the application period for production positions at Volkswagen Chattanooga," said Tom du Plessis, president and CEO of Volkswagen of America. "We make this decision with the safety of our community in mind, based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization, and state and local health officials. Our hiring, onboarding and training processes require in-person interactions; therefore, by postponing these activities we hope to help prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19."

VW had planned to begin taking applications and conducting job interviews on Tuesday as it fills 600 more jobs at the Chattanooga plant, which currently has about 3,800 workers. The hiring planned by VW this year is the biggest hiring directly by the auto maker since the plant first opened in 2009.

Over the past decade, most Volkswagen production workers are first hired by contract companies that supply most of the flexible and temporary staff employed at VW in Chattanooga. VW then hires from its contract workforce to fill its own hourly staff needs.

Volkswagen currently produces the midsize Atlas SUV and the Passat sedan at the Chattanooga factory. Production of its electric vehicle model — a sports utility vehicle in the ID. family — is set to begin in Chattanooga in 2022.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6340.

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