If some of the early construction crews were a little nervous when work began on the new Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, three years ago, they had a good reason. In an irony not lost on members of the team overseeing the project, the mounds dotting the abandoned site had once housed World War II – era bunkers where the U.S. military stored bombs that would eventually be dropped all over Germany – perhaps on the VW plant in Wolfsburg, in fact.
To everyone’s good fortune, the bunkers proved empty. And the fact is, these days, relations are a lot friendlier between the two countries. But the sprawling facility is still on a war footing of sorts.
After years of dithering over its role in the U.S. market, Volkswagen has made a commitment to more than double its sales by 2018, to at least 800,000 vehicles annually. Meanwhile, it hopes to bump its worldwide volumes to more than 8 million, Volkswagen AG CEO Martin Winterkorn declaring, the company “continues to have its sights firmly set on capturing pole position in the automotive industry.”
Chattanooga will play a critical role in meeting that goal – and that means that the plant that formally opened in the Southern heartland, last month, could very well undergo a significant expansion in the very near future. Indeed, TheDetroitBureau.com has learned, capacity could readily more than triple, according to a senior manager, “if it were appropriate.”