The Volkswagen Group of America, Chattanooga Operations LLC plant is located in Chattanooga, Tennessee, about 214 kilometers southeast of Nashville. The facility has a total area of 5,600,000 square meters. In 2015 the plant was expanded by 62,225 square meters, adding space to body and assembly shops and pilot hall. In January 2019, Volkswagen Chattanooga was announced as Volkswagen’s North American base for manufacturing electric vehicles. The Company broke ground on the expansion in November 2019, and the expansion is currently under construction.
Since July 2019 Tom du Plessis has been the president and CEO of Volkswagen Chattanooga. Tom Du Plessis graduated from the University of Pretoria with a degree in Industrial engineering in 1989. Du Plessis joined Volkswagen Group of South Africa in March of 2008 as the Head of Production. Within a year he was appointed to the Management Board as Production Director (2009). Du Plessis continued in this position until 2014, in which time he constructed and commissioned a press shop, modernized manufacturing within the factory, and introduced a new production system to the Volkswagen brand. In 2014 du Plessis moved to Volkswagen Shanghai as the Executive Director over Production SAIC.
The Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga includes all the main stations of the entire production process; including body shop, paint shop, assembly unit, technical center, a training academy and a supplier park with multiple companies on-site. The plant produces the US Passat, Volkswagen Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport. The annual production capacity is approximately 250,000 vehicles.
Starting with its "Think Blue. Factory." initiative in 2010, to the current “Go to Zero” and CO2 neutral factory plans, the Volkswagen brand has set itself clear targets for the environmentally sustainable positioning of all its plants. Specifically, this means lower energy and water consumption, waste volumes and emissions at all plants.
The facility is certified to international standards for energy management (ISO 50001), environmental management (ISO 14001) and quality management (ISO 9001) to ensure sustainable, resource-conserving production, as well as compliance with all laws and regulations for Environmental Performance. Additional projects and efforts are in progress to reduce emissions and waste generation, as well as energy and fresh water consumption for production.
On the basis of special painting equipment known as Process 2010, CO2 emissions are reduced by 20 percent. By using only the most efficient electric motors available, the plant saves about three million kilowatt hours per year. Initially, energy efficient light tubes (T5 lighting system as well as LED) were installed to save 20 percent energy compared with conventional industrial lighting. Storm water, waste disposal, and sewage systems were designed and installed in accordance with LEED criteria. In addition, protected wetlands and habitats for native vegetation have been defined on site.
Volkswagen Chattanooga was the first automobile factory worldwide to receive platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification by USGBC (United States Green Building Council) in 2011. Platinum certification confirms compliance with the most demanding standards for sustainable, environmentally compatible building. Volkswagen Chattanooga inaugurated the largest solar park in Tennessee in January 2013. The park, with an area of more than 26 ha, generates 9.5 MW, providing up to 12.5% of the electric power required by the plant. Since July 2014, the majority of the Chattanooga plant’s material-handling fleet of lift trucks and tuggers have been converted to hydrogen fuel cells.
In November 2018, Volkswagen Chattanooga was recognized by the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry for the plant’s commitment to environmental stewardship. The Tennessee Chamber awarded the 2018 Environmental Excellence Award to the factory.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Every year, several hundred thousand dollars are donated to local organizations for charitable and social purposes. Volkswagen Group of America also supports local charities both in the form of donations and in the form of volunteering by employees. Volkswagen Chattanooga has had its own Diversity Advisory Committee consisting of regional opinion-makers since 2009.
Volkswagen Group of America Chattanooga Operations LLC was founded on December 29, 2008, after the Supervisory Board of Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft had decided in favor of Chattanooga as the location for a Volkswagen plant in North America on July 15, 2008. The start of construction followed on February 3, 2009. The first robots were installed in the body shop in February 2010. On June 4, 2010, the Volkswagen Academy was opened. The industrial park for component suppliers was officially inaugurated by the first suppliers on September 30, 2010. The first vehicle for a customer left the plant on April 15, 2011. On May 24, 2011, the plant was officially opened.
The 100,000th US Passat rolled off the production line on May 31, 2012. On January 23, 2013 Volkswagen Chattanooga completed a solar park located onsite. The park, with an area of 26 ha (66 acres) has a capacity of 9.5 MW and can generate up to 12.5% of the electric power required by the plant.
In July 2014, the Supervisory Board of Volkswagen decided to locate the production of the new Midsize SUV, the Volkswagen Atlas, developed especially for the US market at the Chattanooga plant. Volkswagen invested an additional $900 million at its plant in Tennessee, creating 2,000 additional jobs, and expanding the production facility by 62,225 square meters to support the Atlas production. The Volkswagen Atlas went on sale in May 2017. In March 2018, Volkswagen Chattanooga was announced as the production home of a five-seat SUV, the Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport.
An Ernst & Young research study released in 2018 showed that Volkswagen Chattanooga created 16,408 full-time-equivalent jobs, and is responsible for $1.05 billion USD in annual income.
The Chattanooga factory was announced in January 2019 as Volkswagen’s North American base for manufacturing electric vehicles, representing an $800 million USD investment and adding up to 1,000 new jobs.