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VW May More Than Triple Size of Chattanooga Plant

From bomb bunker to ground zero in the battle for automotive supremacy.

by on Jun.14, 2011

A nearly-completed 2012 Passat gets ready to roll off the line at VW's new Chattanooga plant.

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.”

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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, has learned, capacity could readily more than triple, according to a senior manager, “if it were appropriate.”