Tuesday, September 2, 2014 · 12:43 p.m.

Chattanooga-made Volkswagen Passat to be exported to Middle East

Car made for American market debuts at Qatar Motor Show

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Engineers redesigned the Passat for the American market, making it larger, and officials said more spacious vehicles are popular in the Middle East. (Photo: Contributed)

The Volkswagen Passat made its debut in the Qatar Motor Show this week, and Chattanooga's plant—which already exports to Canada and Mexico—has plans to export it to the Middle East.

Volkswagen spokesman Guenther Scherelis said he couldn’t comment on if that means more shifts for local employees or additional hires for Chattanooga.

“All other information would be important for our competition, and therefore, we do not disclose it,” he said.

Although she noted that she isn’t an expert in the region, Edmunds.com auto industry analyst Michelle Krebs said that the Middle East is important for automakers.

Although there is poverty in the area, there is also great wealth, and the population is growing, she said.

“The unveiling of the Volkswagen Passat in the Middle East is the German automaker delivering on its promise to make the Chattanooga plant an export base,” she said. “The Passat built in Tennessee is built nowhere else.”

An export base typically helps expand or sustain a workforce and helps a company guard against losses when one market is up and another is down, she also said.

The North American-made Passat is bigger than the European version.

The larger, redesigned Passat for United States consumers, who wanted a more spacious vehicle, is also ideal for the Middle East, officials said.

"The Passat is an important component of our model strategy in the Middle East region where classic saloons define the street scene,” Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, head of development and member of the board of management of the Volkswagen brand, said at the Qatar Motor Show, according to a prepared statement.

“That is because the Passat delivers top levels of safety and comfort and offers more space for rear passengers due to its long wheelbase," he said. 

Krebs said that, in general, larger vehicles are popular in the Middle East.

“The Chevrolet Suburban and the like have long been favorites there,” she said.

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