Passat is ready to roll off line
Posted: Monday, April 18, 2011 6:01 pm
By: Bill Poovey
By BILL POOVEY
CHATTANOOGA (AP) — Workers starting production of a cheaper, larger Passat at Volkswagen Group of America’s new plant in Chattanooga have a message for car shoppers: It’s a winner.
But there are questions. The name is familiar but this Passat is different. Why risk buying an unproven car? Why trust workers who have no track record?
VW’s Chattanooga Operations said in a statement Friday that the first 2012 Passats destined for the marketplace will roll off the line this week to be sold in the second half of this year.
“I know what we’ve had to do,” said Auby Longley, a maintenance technician who works on robotic equipment in the $1 billion plant.
This Passat, unlike its predecessor with the same name and a price of about $28,000, will have a sticker price around $20,000 when it hits showrooms.
Longley said the 1,600 employees are “committed to making a quality product.” Longley, 50, said he has driven the new Passat and wants to buy one.
After training for months under the German automaker’s designers and engineers, building hundreds of test vehicles and learning a new workplace culture that shouts attention to quality, Adrian Leslie’s $14.50-an-hour job is installing rear axles, springs and struts and O2 sensors.
Leslie said working for Volkswagen in Chattanooga carries a kind of celebrity status, because he is among just over 1,600 workers hired from more than 85,000 applicants.
“I feel a great accomplishment when I say that,” said Leslie, 35.
“I can tell them we are building a real good quality car,” he said. “I think it’s what we need for the American market.”
An auto industry analyst says consumers should be cautious.
Consumer Reports’ senior auto test engineer and program manager Gabriel Shenhar said his publication hasn’t yet driven the 2012 Passat.
“We have sat in it,” Shenhar said.