Volkswagen's dream of becoming the No. 1 seller of electric vehicles in America runs through Chattanooga.
Work started late last year on an $800 million Chattanooga plant expansion to make a battery-powered SUV by 2022.
Scott Keogh, president and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, says that electric vehicles are the future of mobility and VW will build them "for millions, not just millionaires."
He terms the planned new EV assembly site "a big, big moment for this company. Expanding local production sets the foundation for its sustainable growth in the U.S."
The German automaker calls Chattanooga the base for its electric vehicle manufacturing operations in all of North America.
VW plans to add more than 750,000 square feet to its Chattanooga facilities to produce the more environmentally agreeable EVs in addition to hiring another 1,000 people on top of the nearly 3,000 already employed in the Enterprise South industrial park plant.
The expansion includes a 564,000-square-foot addition to the body shop where Volkswagen will build both internal combustion engine vehicles and EVs on the same assembly line.
Also, the company plans to build a 198,000-square-foot facility adjacent to its factory for the assembly of battery packs for EVs.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has pledged to help the state produce skilled workers for such jobs and to attract more global companies such as Volkswagen.
"I come from a background of skilled tradespeople," says the former businessman, adding that he recognizes how valuable those employees can be to companies. "One of the greatest things we can do is develop this workforce."
Bob Rolfe, Tennessee's commissioner of economic and community development, says that the state has a goal of becoming the top electric vehicle producer in America.
"Our goal is to be at the forefront of all electric vehicle manufacturing and the suppliers that will wrap around" the automakers, he says.
With the addition of electric vehicle production at VW in 2022 to go along with existing assembly of the battery-powered Nissan Leaf in Smyrna, Tennessee, Rolfe says Tennessee would be proud to earn the top EV producer ranking in the nation, but it won't happen overnight.
California EV maker Tesla in 2018 grew its deliveries to about 245,000 vehicles, which is No. 1 in America.
Nissan Leaf production has taken place at Smyrna since 2013, with more than 128,000 models sold in the United States from 2011 through 2018, figures show.
The compact electric SUV to be made in Chattanooga, which will be about the size of the existing Tiguan and dubbed the ID. Crozz, will join the Passat sedan and Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport SUVs on the plant's assembly lines.
The ID. Crozz will be made in Germany for a couple of years before production begins in Chattanooga.
Volkswagen is sourcing the batteries from SK Innovation, a South Korean company that is building a $1.67 billion factory in Northeast Georgia. At VW's new facility, the automaker will put together the battery packs that will be installed in the electric SUV.
When production of the SUV begins in early 2022, officials say, the Chattanooga plant will have capacity to assemble more than 100,000 EVs annually.
The site of the plant expansion in Chattanooga is near where VW once stored hundreds of cars temporarily decommissioned due to its diesel emission scandal.
Four years ago, the federal government said VW was in violation of the Clean Air Act after it had used so-called defeat devices in its diesel vehicles to cheat on pollution tests. VW agreed to buy back nearly 380,000 of the cars in the U.S. in order to fix or scrap them and it stored them in locations around the country, including at the Chattanooga plant site.