The Boss and The Product: VW AG chairman Martin Winterkorn opens the Passat producing Chattanooga factory

The Boss and The Product: VW AG chairman Martin Winterkorn opens the Passat producing Chattanooga factory

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Volkswagen has officially opened its new plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, its first US plant since it closed its Rabbit/Golf factory in Westmoreland, Pennsylvania, in the early 1980s.

Inauguration ceremony attendees included VW AG chairman Martin Winterkorn, US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, VW Group of America president and CEO Jonathon Browning and various government and state officials.

Around 2,000 employees will initially produce produce up to 150,000 US-model Passats per year but Winterkorn told reporters the company would decide within a year on future expansion. VW also has a larger plant in Mexico which primarily supplies North America with other models including the Jetta and Beetle.

VW claimed its new US plant sets new standards in terms of sustainable, resource-efficient production.

Winterkorn said: "The Volkswagen Group has finally arrived as a local manufacturer in the United States. We are proud to be part of this great automobile nation as a producer, an employer and as a friend and good neighbour to people in the region."

Construction started in 2009 and the plant includes body shop, paint shop, assembly facility, technical testing centre, a staff training academy while a supplier park with eight companies has been built on a 5.6 km² site nearby.

Engines are imported from Mexico (I5) and Europe (petrol V6 and I4 TDi), a VW official told just-auto by email earlier this week.

Design capacity of the plant is 150,000 vehicles per year and local content is 85%. The plant already employs 1,700 directly by Volkswagen in Chattanooga and VW calculates 10,000 additional jobs will be created in the US component supply industry.

Volkswagen is spending about US$1bn at Chattanooga. The new plant meets the highest requirements of the US LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standard, which lays down stringent provisions for the sustainable, environmentally compatible construction of buildings.