CHATTANOOGA (WRCB/Times Free Press/AP) - Volkswagen officially opened in Chattanooga Tuesday.

During a grand opening for their new plant in Enterprise South on Tuesday, the German automaker presented the 2012 Passat as the key to building U.S. sales to 1 million units by 2018.

"Volkswagen is at home in America like never before," said Michael Macht, Volkswagen's board member in charge of worldwide production.

The factory has been producing cars since April and Volkswagen officials took the opportunity to show off both their German-designed sedan and the plant.

The billion dollar assembly plant will employ nearly 1,600 workers when fully staffed.

The 2012 Passat is already rolling off the assembly lines, and will be available to consumers by late summer.

"Hiring should be complete in the next 3 to 4 months," said Frank Fischer, who heads up VW's Chattanooga operations.

"This is where our economy is rebounding," said Ray LaHood, US Transportation Secretary. "This is where our workers are getting their footing."

This afternoon, dignitaries from across the state will take a tour of the factory.

Among those in attendance are  U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray La Hood; Klaus Scharioth, German ambassador to the United States; Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam; Jonathan Browning, president and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America; and U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker of Tennessee.

The new Passat will go on sale in the third quarter for $20,000, about $7,000 cheaper than current models built in Germany, and close to competitors' prices like the Ford Fusion, the Toyota Camry, the Honda Accord and the Hyundai Sonata.


Eyewitness News will be at Enterprise South for the grand opening of the plant. Stay with for updates throughout the day.