VW unveils new Atlas Cross Sport GT

Volkswagen of America on Thursday revealed an Atlas Cross Sport GT concept vehicle aimed at showing the sporty potential of the Chattanooga-built midsize SUV.

The concept comes with a modified 2.0-liter TSI engine, lowered suspension, custom wheels, and a unique color palette, according to VW.

"The launch of the all-new Golf GTI and Golf R got us thinking about how to inject some of that VW magic into our SUVs," said Scott Keogh, chief executive of Volkswagen Group of America. "This concept is proof that it's possible to build SUVs that could appeal to our performance enthusiast base."

The Atlas Cross Sport GT Concept started with a production vehicle assembled in Chattanooga, which was then modified by Volkswagen enthusiast Jamie Orr.

After being presented to the Volkswagen Chattanooga production team by Keogh and Orr, the concept will be at select events across the USA later this year, the company said.


Airport garage officially opens

Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport on Thursday officially opened its $25 million parking garage just outside the terminal.

The 1,300-space, four-level garage, on which construction was completed on Monday, will hold all rental car activities on the ground floor, according to airport officials.

Also, the airport has created a cell phone parking lot that will open this week. An existing lot at 5900 Rosedale Drive was repurposed so drivers picking up passengers may wait in a convenient location away from the terminal.

"For several years, our passengers have requested expanded parking options," said Terry Hart, the airport's chief executive. "Our new parking garage and cell phone lot will help us deliver on this commitment to enhanced accessibility and convenience at the Chattanooga Airport."

The garage was designed and built by Hoar Construction, MBI Companies, American Structural Concrete, International Parking Design and Culp & Tanner Structural Engineers.


Mortgage rates drop for 4th straight week

Mortgage rates fell for the fourth straight week, undercut by worries that the surging delta coronavirus variant and the worsening pandemic in hotspots around the world could derail what has been a strong economic recovery.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the average for the 30-year home loan dipped to 2.78% from 2.88% last week, down from its peak this year of 3.18% in April. The key rate stood at 3.01% a year ago.

The rate for a 15-year loan, a popular option among homeowners refinancing their mortgages, declined to 2.12% from 2.22% last week.


Airlines profits return with pandemic relief

American Airlines and Southwest Airlines both posted second-quarter profits on Thursday thanks to generous federal pandemic relief that covers most of their labor costs.

The reports on Thursday underscored the progress that airlines are making in rebuilding after the coronavirus crushed air travel — and how much farther they must go to fully recover.

American eked out a second-quarter profit of $19 million due to nearly $1.5 billion in taxpayer support. Southwest reported a profit of $348 million, including $724 million in federal help.

Southwest said it made money in June even without the government aid and hopes to be profitable by any measure in the third and fourth quarters if the pandemic doesn't get worse.

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said third-quarter travel bookings are "very strong," and he sees no impact yet from rising coronavirus cases tied to the fast-spreading delta variant.

"We are very well prepared to manage and muddle our way through if the delta variant affects our business," he added.

American and Southwest — like Delta and United in the past week — reported revenue far above 2020 levels. That reflects the rising number of people taking flights in the U.S. — now about 2 million a day, or about 80% of pre-pandemic levels. Domestic leisure travel is roughly back to normal, but business and international travelers are still mostly absent.