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Staff file photo / Volkswagen employees work around vehicles moving down the assembly line at the Chattanooga production plant.

CORRECTION: This story was updated at 3:09 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 17, 2021, to correct the phone number.

Volkswagen Chattanooga is joining with a new staffing company to help hire many of the 1,000 more employees it needs in the next year as the plant readies for electric vehicles.

"We're hiring for production, logistics, paint and body shops," said Gray Nelson, the branch manager at The Onin Group.

Onin is seeking assembly production workers with pay rates that start at $15.50 per hour and can range up to $19.72 per hour with VW's bonus program that rewards employee attendance and the ability to follow through on assignments, according to the staffing contractor.

"We screen them when they come in and put them in one of those departments," Nelson said.

VW also offers a paid training program for the first three weeks that allows workers to acclimate themselves to the production line. VW typically will later convert workers to become employees of the automaker.

Nelson said employees are given access to a range of benefits to support their physical and mental health.

"Workers need jobs that give them more and allow them to succeed as a whole person," she said. "It's all about giving people the right tools to thrive, not just at work, but in life."

Tom du Plessis, president and chief executive of VW's Chattanooga operations, said workers are needed to build the ID.4 battery-powered SUV and for the hiring of a third shift.

The latest wave of hiring will put the Chattanooga factory at more than 4,500 workers, with assembly of the electric, five-passenger SUV starting in the third quarter of next year.

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"Volkswagen's North American strategy is geared to the future," du Plessis said this week to a group of journalists testing driving the ID.4 and touring an $800 million expansion to the plant's body shop and a new battery assembly facility.

The factory currently builds the Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport SUVs and Passat sedan. But production of the Passat is to end in the winter as the facility makes room for more SUVs.

Atlas sales are up more than 40,000 vehicles this year over last so far, according to Volkswagen Group of America. That's helping put VW on track to sell more than 400,000 vehicles overall in the U.S. this year, according to the company, a volume not seen since the Beetle sold well.

Johan de Nysschen, chief operating officer for Volkswagen Group's North American Region, said the company hasn't seen that level of sales "since the Beetle, Saturday Night Fever and Disco."

The company official said VW is giving the market the SUVs it wants.

"We have the right product for the market," he said.

For the ID.4, which is now built in Germany and went on sale in the U.S. early this year, the task is to convert customers driving internal combustion engine vehicles, de Nysschen said.

"We think the ID.4 family is well positioned to do that," he said.

Birmingham, Alabama-based Onin Group is tracking for its annual sales to hit more than $590 million, according to the company.

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

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