VW’s Chattanooga conversion on schedule
The expansion of VW’s US plant in Chattanooga USA began in November 2019 and is still on schedule despite the pandemic. Series production of the VW ID.4 should start there in 2022, and the first pre-series vehicles are already planned for 2021. Back in Germany, there are reports that the next manager in Wolfsburg is facing an imminent departure.
Statements have been made by the managing director of VW Chattanooga Tom du Plessis indicating that the employees who will assemble the ID.4 are also to be recruited in the course of next year. When MEB production in Chattanooga was announced, word was that about 1,000 new jobs will be created. Now the plant manager seems to be a little more reserved. “We’ll start with a small team and grow it,” du Plessis told the Chattanooga Times Free Press. “It’s challenging times for everybody. We try to be responsible.”
While production of the Atlas, Atlas Cross Sport and Passat internal combustion engine models was halted for a good two months in the existing area of the plant due to the Corona pandemic, work on the expansion, which began in November 2019, was continued under the prescribed measures. Construction work on the new body shop being built for MEB production is now 70 per cent complete.
According to du Plessis, the same applies to the building where the batteries will be assembled. VW wants to obtain the cells for the power storage units from a plant of SK Innovation in the neighbouring US state of Georgia. However, there is a threat of delay here due to the legal dispute with LG Chem, which is why VW and its similarly-affected competitor Ford both appealed to the US International Trade Commission this week to allow SKI to manufacture battery cells at the new factory in the US state of Georgia.
While the production of the electrical future of VW’s MEB power supplies continues to take shape in the USA, another chapter is coming to an end this week in company headquarters in Wolfsburg: the last e-Golf rolled off the assembly line at the main plant. The car is a red e-Golf with special bodies and was handed over to the Rostock city fire brigade service. Instead of converted MQB-based combustion engines, Volkswagen’s electric cars will be built on a dedicated e-platform on its own production lines. While a whole new building is being erected in the existing plant in Chattanooga, USA, back at the plant in Zwickau, Germany, Volkswagen has converted an entire plant for vehicles based on the MEB platform. With the Golf 8, only hybrids and plug-in hybrids will be available after the end of production of the e-Golf based on the previous generation.
Since not everything went smoothly with the introduction of the Golf 8 another top manager may lose their post. As the Handelsblatt reports, the VW brand’s board member for sales Jürgen Stackmann is to be put out of a job. So far, the Group has not issued an official confirmation on the matter.
As the Handelsblatt writes, the dismissal is based on a number of issues. One is that Stackmann had done too little for the distribution of the Golf 8 and the Passat in view of ID.3. According to another source, Stackmann is said to have given too much resistance. For example, in view of the unsolved technical problems with the Golf 8, the head of sales is said to have “pleaded for a postponement with reference to the list of defects” with no success. Apparently VW is said to have feared an image problem in the event of a postponement. It remains to be seen exactly which image problem will end up being more serious, a delay of several months, or a delivery stop including a recall of one of the new models.
The Golf 8 market launch is indeed considered to have been a flop, and according to reports, even with the latest model update of the Passat dealers were disappointed with both the course of events and communication. Under Stackmann, however, global sales figures have also risen for the VW brand. Stackmann also introduced the agency model for the distribution of the ID. family, which should enable VW better customer contact.