First consumer 2012 Passat rolls off assembly line
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) – The new Beetle may have stolen the spotlight, but how many cars debut to the strains of a marching band?
The Signal Mountain High School Marching Eagles provided the backdrop for a flock of Volkswagen workers - Team Chattanooga, to hail the completion of the first Passat built, not for testing, but for the customer.
"We didn't make it to sit in the garage and only come out on special occasions," VW North America CEO Frank Fischer says.
"No! Our car is meant to be driven. On American roads. Day in and day out."
Madison Avenue would term Car One 'nicely equipped.' Painted Night Blue Metallic, its interior feature cornsilk leather seats, a 2.5-liter engine and 18-inch wheels. All that's missing is the sticker; it's not for sale.
"It has enough room for the family to be comfortable in it," Fischer says.
"But it also is comfortable for the family budget."
Industry analysts peg the base price at around $20,000; significantly less than its predecessor.
Five team members helped introduce the Passat Monday afternoon; each representing a part of the assembly process. By no accident, the driver, Joey Gillian, is from Quality Assurance.
"It's a very roomy car, it's a very classy car," Gilliland says.
"And I think it looks better than the other models its competing against."
Managers haven't said how many they're building per day. But the goal is to have 9,000 ready to show VW's North American dealers after Chattanooga Assembly's grand opening May 24.
VW's German bosses signed off on the Passat's fit-and-finish last Wednesday, Fischer says. He demurs as to whether their enthusiasm sends a strong signal as to whether other models might be slated for production here.
"There are a lot of options and factors," he says. "But as soon as we know when it's decided, we'll make sure you hear."
Job One, as Human Resources managers put it, is growing the marriage of German engineering and America's can-do spirit.
Gilliland has no problem answering, point blank, whether the Southeast Tennessee-built Passat is a car he'd feel comfortable having his mother drive.
"As soon as possible."