UPDATED: Volkswagen employees celebrate Car of the Year award
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WRCB-TV) - It was a video recording of a big moment in Volkswagen Chattanooga history and it drew a loud cheer from the home team. The Passat is the 2012 Motor Trend Car of he Year. Their car, the one produced by their own hands, had won international recognition and the workers gathered to have a look at the hardware. This is a pretty big deal! In the 62 years Motor Trend has judged new and updated vehicles, this is the first win for a new car form a new plant, built by people who had never constructed a vehicle before. "Manufacturing a car is an extraordinarily difficult thing to do," explained former Motor Trend Editor in Chief Angus MacKenzie. "It requires a lot of people to really deliver on so many thousands of different levels. So, it's a great testament to the teamwork here in Chattanooga"
It had come down to a close battle between the new Chrysler 300 and the Passat, but they were not pitted against each other, per se. The cars were judged against a list of criteria. How well did they measure up for advances in design, engineering excellence, efficiency, safety, value performance and intended function? "That last criterion is probably one of the most important ones," said MacKenzie. "if a car is designed to be a sports car, how good a sports car is it? And in this case with the Volkswagen Passat, it's a car that really in one of the toughest vehicle segments in America, right now."
The Chattanooga-made VW is competing with known brands like Honda and Toyota with their Accord and Camry, respectively. MacKenzie continued, "To meet the heart of the market with a product that offers plenty of room, a good driving experience, timeless styling and some interesting technologies such as diesel and your clutch transmission, at a price point that customers can afford is some achievement."
The factory is churning out more than 400 cars a day, now; nearly 30,000 this year. " What is even more important," added Frank Fischer, Volkswagen Chattanooga, "also, for the Passat, the sales are above target. Quite a high number above target which gets us in a very positive situation."
In October, VW sales in the US were up 40% from a year ago. 5,000 Passats were sold that month. That is great news for the local workforce, two shifts now, and more than 2,500 strong. "These people here made it happen," beamed Claude Ramsey, Tennessee Deputy Governor and former Hamilton County Mayor. "You know, you can have the best design in the world, but if you don't have good quality, you don't have anything. So, my hat's off to the workers. I'm very proud of them."
Just in from Nashville, he is still 100% behind the local workforce and looking back at what it took to get to this point, he called this day 'special.'
"As long as we're producing quality products that sell," predicted Ramsey, good things are gonna happen here."
There is a lot still happening on the Volkswagen campus besides car building. The company will be opening up a temporary daycare at the end of the year ion the Erlanger building. Construction has already begun on a permanent facility that will serve more than 200 kids. Kandy Kastle has won the daycare contract and is scheduled to open April 1st.
To date, Volkswagen has received more than 85,000 employment applications. Except for a few supervisor positions still open, they tell us their team is nearly complete.
Questions were posed about rumors the company would next add a new vehicle to the Chattanooga assembly line. Earlier in the week, German media reported an SUV for the American market could be just around the corner. Fischer said he dose not know and it is not up to him. He said they are still in the ramp up phase for the Passat. And while the structure is already prepared for another car, he is still busy preparing the human side and the equipment side.
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)-- Volkswagen celebrated its Motor Trend Magazine: 2012 Car of the Year award Friday morning.
Motor Trend editor in chief, Angus McKenzie, attended the event, and says the Chattanooga-made Passat was one of 55 cars tested.
McKenzie says the new Chrysler 300 was among the cars defeated by the German automaker.
Volkswagen officials say, Passat sales are above target, up more than 21 percent in North America over the first nine months of 2011.
With two shift per day, more than 400 cars roll of the assembly line, with almost 30,000 made to date.
While Volkswagen officials have not confirmed production of a second car, they do say their facility is structurally prepared for the addition.
- READ MORE: Report: Volkswagen could build SUV in Chattanooga]
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