Staff photo by Troy Stolt / Wolfgang Maluche stands for a portrait inside of the workshop area at the Volkswagen Engineering and Planning Center on Monday, March 2, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Wolfgang Maluche came to Volkswagen's Chattanooga operations from Germany a little more than two years ago to gain more international experience.

"I wanted to further my career," Maluche says. "After 16 years at Audi headquarters in Ingolstadt (Germany), it was time to see more of the world and more of Volkswagen Group. One thing led to another and I was happy to have the chance to make a career step."

After serving as a technical project manager at the Volkswagen Engineering and Planning Center adjacent to the automaker's Chattanooga production plant, he was named vice president of engineering and heads the facility.

The center employs about 100 people supporting the plant from an engineering standpoint, the 44-year-old engineer says.

"We're the first line of contact" in helping keep production running at the assembly plant that builds the Passat sedan and Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport SUVs, he says.

Also, the Engineering and Planning Center does competitor analysis, looking at similar vehicles made by other automaker and comparing them, Maluche says. In addition, the center evaluates what content goes into future vehicles, he says.

Additionally, the Engineering and Planning Center is involved in the multimillion-dollar partnership that will enable Volkswagen to gain key research into electric vehicles and lighter automotive components recently announced with the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

They joined to create the automaker's first "Innovation Hub" in North America.

The EPC also will provide support for the current $800 million expansion at the plant that will result in producing electric vehicles by 2022, Maluche says.

The move from Germany to Chattanooga isn't his first time in the United States. He studied industrial engineering at Texas A&M, where he obtained a master's degree.

In fact, his wife is a Texas A&M alumnae, though they met in Germany where she was an intern at VW, Maluche says.

"We both wanted to do master's degrees," he says. "It changed my plans a little bit toward Texas."

Today, they have three children, ages 6, 10 and 12, Maluche says.

For his wife, returning to the U.S. was nice, he says. For his children, they have the chance to learn both the language and culture, Maluche says.

"For them, it's a really good step," he says.