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City leaders push for VW CrossBlue production in Chattanooga

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There is some promising news coming from Volkswagen. The German automaker announced it will invest $7 billion in North America over the next five years. VW also announced Sunday at the annual International Auto Show in Detroit, it will move forward with production of the CrossBlue SUV in the American market. However, where it will be produced has yet to be announced.

Ever since Volkswagen announced its plans to open a production facility in Chattanooga, city and county leaders knew there was room for growth at the plant. With the news of VW bringing a mid-size SUV to the U.S. market, they are pushing even harder to make sure it is built here.

"Volkswagen's success, is Chattanooga's success," says Charles Wood, Vice President of Economic Development for the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce.

VW's decision to build its Passat in Chattanooga created 3,500 jobs at the plant including contract workers. But overall, a UT economist found that VW is responsible for directly and indirectly bringing more than 12,000 new jobs to the area. If the CrossBlue is built in the Scenic City, that number would jump even higher.

"I don't think the job numbers at Volkswagen would be nearly that level. But I think there's really potential around the supply chain because the volume will increase dramatically," says Wood.

With the added SUV, production could jump from to 150,000 to a quarter of a million vehicles a year. Since talks began of bringing the new SUV to the U.S., he says local leaders have been courting VW execs with a two-part pitch on why it should be built in Chattanooga.

"First of all, they've made a big commitment so far, to leverage the investment in the plant, it makes sense for them to have a second vehicle."

He also says "Made in the USA" goes a long way for buyers.

"Our second is, of course, the vehicle's directly oriented toward the North American market, particularly the U.S. market. They've got significant sales goals in the U.S. Part of making that sales goal is being able to say, 'You made it here.'"

Add on top of that, there is plenty of room to build the CrossBlue.

"The plant itself at Enterprise South has significant capacity for expansion, beyond even a second vehicle, so for over a long period of time," says Wood.

Wood says despite reports saying Chattanooga is the chosen city, it is not a done deal yet. When asked if he is waiting by the phone, he answers with a laugh, "Well, I have my cell phone on me all the time, so I'm always waiting by the phone, I guess would be the way to put it."

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