UPDATE: VW Chattanooga CEO says expansion plans are still on schedule
UPDATE: More than a month after Volkswagen admitted millions of its diesel cars contained emissions-cheating software, Tennessee lawmakers are learning how it has impacted the state and local economy.
The Senate, Finance, Ways and Means Committee's Appropriation Subcommittee held a special meeting in Chattanooga Thursday.
No votes or decisions were made at this meeting, it was held strictly to gather more information on Volkswagen since news broke of the emissions scandal, and to learn what changes have taken place at the Chattanooga production plant.
Local and state leaders said their biggest concern is for the thousands of Tennesseans who live, work and raise a family in this community solely because of Volkswagen.
"This is real life. These are real people and real jobs," said Senator Bo Watson (R-Hixon).
The Senate Finance Subcommittee wants to know if it's still smart to keep investing into the company, and to keep offering it state and local incentives.
"It is not the Tennessee way to turn away from our partners when they need our support," Senator Watson said, "Volkswagen should remember, however, who is standing with them during their hour of need."
First, the CEO of the Volkswagen Chattanooga plant apologized for the lies and deceit on behalf of the company.
"As a company we take full responsibility for our actions and intended to make things right," said CEO Christian Koch.
Then, Koch gave the Senate committee the reassurance it was looking for.
"Our plans to keep the momentum going have not changed," Koch said, "Even of the fact of the emission issue affecting some TDI vehicles, I'm here today to state, to the Chattanooga community and hardworking people across the state, that Volkswagen's plans for expansion are on track."
Although between 20-25 percent of production in the Chattanooga plant was making TDI diesel cars, Koch says local jobs were not lost.
Plans to expand the company and to build the new 2016 Passat mid-sized SUV are still on schedule.
Commissioner Randy Boyd, of the Economic Development Committee, also made a statement at the hearing, and says there has not been any clear negative impact on the 27 local manufacturing companies that supply to VW.
Overall, the Senate Committee seemed pleased with Volkswagen's update, and thanked the Chattanooga CEO for the information he provided.
By ERIK SCHELZIG, Associated Press
NASHVILLE (AP) - Tennessee lawmakers are holding a hearing in Chattanooga on Thursday about Volkswagen's efforts to recover from a diesel emissions cheating scandal.
The hearing was called by Republican Sen. Bo Watson, who has said he wants to ensure that the state's hundreds of millions of incentive dollars are being spent wisely by the German automaker.
Watson has long been a vocal critic of Volkswagen for not doing more to prevent the United Auto Workers union from gaining a foothold at the plant. Thursday's hearing comes less than a week after maintenance workers at the plant petitioned the National Labor Relations Board for a new union vote.
The vote would only apply to the about 165 maintenance workers at the plant where the UAW narrowly lost a union vote last year.
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