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Union decision looms for Volkswagen employees

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Car in VW employee parking lot in Chattanooga supporting UAW Car in VW employee parking lot in Chattanooga supporting UAW

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB/AP) — Employees at Chattanooga's Volkswagen plant are considering whether to vote to organize in order to have formal representation. That does not necessarily mean joining a union like the UAW (United Auto Workers), according to group chief Johnathan Browning.

The employees could also decide to not organize which would typically require payment of union dues.

The Associated Press reports Volkswagen Group of America expects U.S. sales to keep growing for the next five years, although its chief executive is tempering expectations a little.

It's more than halfway toward sales targets of 800,000 for the VW brand and 1 million for the group by 2018. The VW brand's 90 percent sales increase over the past five years is among the largest of any major automaker. Last year there were more than 438,000 VWs sold in the U.S., up 35 percent over 2011.

The VW brand's 90 percent sales increase over the past five years is among the largest of any major automaker. Last year there were more than 438,000 VWs sold in the U.S., up 35 percent over 2011.

But at the New York International Auto Show Wednesday, group chief Jonathan Browning discussed tailoring German engineered cars for American buyers, growth in sales of diesel-powered vehicles and the possible unionization of the company's factory in Chattanooga.

Q: Are those lofty sales goals for the U.S. still attainable?

A: "That was set as a goal to really shock our internal organization, to say that doing business as we have historically done for North America, for the U.S., will not achieve the goals were looking to achieve. It was a very strong rallying cry, a wake-up call to the organization if you will, to say we need to do things differently," Browning said. "A million units and 800,000 is still our objective. But it really is defining the space we want to be playing in rather than a specific point forecast."

Q: There's been talk about a German-style employee advisory board and perhaps a union at your plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. What's going on there?

A: "We want our employees to have a strong voice in any operations that we run around the world, and that includes Chattanooga," Browning said. "The next step is to say the representation the employees will have will be determined by the employees through a vote. Any formal representation doesn't necessarily mean the UAW (United Auto Workers union). The management board in Germany has not taken a formal decision to my knowledge, haven't had formal discussions of this yet."

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