Friday, June 10, 2011
VW's New Plant in Chattanooga
Despite all our problems, including an endless parade of deviant "foppervs" (my coin) like Anthony Weiner, we are still a great country.
Know how I know? I go see it quite a bit. Last week I was in Chattanooga, a place I’ve never been. Plunk in the middle of a former military facility where dynamite was once stored is a stunning new auto plant, built by Volkswagen.
If you look at the design and the flow of the plant, it is pure German engineering—stark, simple, efficient. Touring a modern auto plant, reveals how clean, automated and green manufacturing can be. In fact, Volkswagen views the Chattanooga plant as a benchmark against which other VW plants will be built.
Mostly Americans work there, local Chattanoogans, transplants from other manufacturers and some Germans. The plant, so far, has employed 1,800 people. As the line ramps up, more jobs will be filled. The employees go through testing and more testing and once hired, they attend the Volkswagen Academy, which teaches them to build cars according to VW standards. Right now they are building the 2012 Passat, the first vehicle to come off the Chattanooga line. There are about 60 cars a day coming off the line now but the goal is to produce up to 230 a day by the end of June and they are confident they will get there.
Coming from New York State, which is so anti-business you couldn’t build a toothpick factory, I never ceased to be amazed at what the Southern states have done to build their economies. Need to remediate wetlands? Sure, let’s get the environmental department together with the construction people with the Governor and not only remediate wetlands but add to them. No problem down south. In New York, we’d lose the business before we sat down and had a conversation about what’s possible. But don’t get me started on that.
More on the car in the next installment. But I will say that VW is on a roll. In May, they achieved their best market share since 1981—that was 30 years ago. They had their best May since 2002. They sold more than 30,000 vehicles for the first time since August of 2003.
Car companies go through up and down cycles. They just do. It’s part of the business. And VW is on an upswing.