Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant to open its doors tomorrow

Article by Christian Andrei, on May 23, 2011

The new plant of Volkswagen in Chattanooga is preparing for its official opening on May 24, 2011. Unfortunately, workers had difficulty with the paint finishes of the Passat sedan. In addition, the chrome accents in the door openings, air vents and gear shifts did not have the same level of shine.

Chief Executive Officer Martin Winterkorn became impatient with the staff in the Chattanooga plant. According to the May 23 issue of Bloomberg Businessweek, Winterkorn wanted to inspect the components with chrome finishes, which were hung on a wall for his examination.

However, he wanted them arrayed side by side in a Plexiglas case in order to look at the components from above – the same way that customers will see them with the vehicle.

Volkswagen and Winterkorn have a lot riding on the $1 billion factory, which has a production capacity of 150,000 Passats a year. The U.S. version of Passat features more robust air conditioning, more legroom and bigger control buttons compared to the European version.

The U.S. variant is also approximately $8,000 cheaper at around $20,000, due to the lower wages in the country, local content as well as simplified designs.

The opening of the factory marks the beginning of a renewed push by the vehicle manufacturer to shed its also-ran status in the U.S., where it hasn’t posted a profit since 2002.

Volkswagen also wants to outperform Toyota Motor Corp. as the largest vehicle manufacturer in the world. Winterkorn said in an interview that anyone who wants to be the No. 1 in the industry has to be successful in the U.S. market. Last January, the company launched a U.S. version of the Passat at the motor show in Detroit.

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