VW chief offers details on supplier park

VW chief offers details on supplier park

October 31st, 2009 by Mike Pare in Volkswagen

Staff Photo by Dan Henry Frank Fischer, CEO of VW operations in Chattanooga, speaks about future staffing plans during a press conference at the new VW visitors center.

Staff Photo by Dan Henry Frank Fischer, CEO of...

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Volkswagen's Chattanooga plant chief said Friday that the planned supplier park near the VW plant is expected to have about eight to 10 suppliers at first and be ready next summer.

Frank Fischer, speaking at the Southern Automotive Conference, also said the park initially will hold buildings about 400,000 square feet in size.

At least initially, the companies in the park, which will be built adjacent to the plant now going up at Enterprise South industrial park, likely will produce a total number of jobs "in the three digits," Mr. Fischer said.

"Lease rates will be competitive," he told the large group of people representing suppliers and other companies.

Phil Carver of the Tennessee Automotive Manufacturers, said there are a lot of dynamic people in the supply business in the state.

"We're going to show you," he said.

The supplier park will be built on about 85 acres next to the $1 billion VW plant. Mr. Fischer said earlier this week that the park ultimately could hold 15 or more assembly-type companies along with other firms.

Mr. Fischer said the new sedan that VW plans to make in Chattanooga will share some parts of a new Jetta that will be made in Mexico. Industry publication AutoBeat said the new model will sell for about $20,000 and offer a variety of electronics, including Bluetooth.

The VW CEO said the quality of the midsize sedan is "an absolute must."

"There's a very high focus on quality," Mr. Fischer said.

Prototypes of the new car are running well during tests in Germany, he said.

"There are no red lights so far," he said.

While the reliability and quality of some VW's have fallen short in the past, Mr. Fischer said Friday that "in our company philosophy, it's very important to show that the car has value."

Details such as the way the doors fit the body or how the radio fits into the dash are important, he said.

Suppliers for the Chattanooga plant, slated to start production in early 2011, probably will cluster in the Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama area, Mr. Fischer said.

"We want to be a local company," he said. "We want to be a Chattanooga company."

But he said clusters also will occur in Michigan, where the auto business has been concentrated for many years, and Mexico, where VW has its only other North American assembly plant.

Mr. Fischer said the company is committed to being "a major player in the U.S." While VW's market share is small, it is growing during the tough time in the industry, he said.

The company is introducing a larger variety of products in the U.S. market, he said, and that should help the automaker reach its goal of selling 800,000 cars in the country by 2018.

VW JOBS

More than 40,000 people have applied for VW's salaried, skilled maintenance and production jobs so far, officials said.