In 2012, Volkswagen leaders continued to move toward their 2018 goal of being the world's largest car manufacturer. Company leaders have said that United States market is an important piece of that plan, and Chattanooga's plant likely has a significant role in meeting those goals.
Although leaders haven't confirmed any new local manufacturing plans, some industry insiders said that Chattanooga's plant will eventually have to produce more than the Passat to get maximum profitability.
"The [Chattanooga] plant really is the cornerstone of the grander plan, which is to vastly increase sales in the U.S.," Bill Visnic, Edmunds.com senior analyst, said.
Autoweek recently reported that the new VW SUV would be made in Chattanooga, although they didn't cite a source, and a local spokesman said that leaders have not made that decision yet.
The CrossBlue is aimed at the American market, just like the Passat has been, Visnic said.
Last week, leaders with the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce visited the Detroit auto show to see the SUV's unveiling and to let Volkswagen leaders know that they want another car built in Chattanooga.
Last May, Volkswagen Chattanooga CEO Frank Fischer said he wants to see a midsized SUV made in Chattanooga, although he said he didn't know what the chances are that it will happen.
The possibilities, potential obstacle?
Although VW leaders said they haven't made a decision about if and where the new concept SUV will be made, Visnic said it looks "fairly inevitable" it will be manufactured in Chattanooga.
"It has a lot of the same basic styling direction that we've seen with the Passat," he said. "VW made it very clear at the Detroit show when they introduced the CrossBlue concept that it was a product designed for the U.S. market—that would be an important piece of putting together the riddle."
But Visnic also suspects that the next product to come out of the Chattanooga plant will be a Passat with a four-cylinder engine.
The Passat's competitors all have four-cylinder options, he also said.
And leaders unveiled the Passat performance concept, which is basically a Passat but with a four-cylinder gas engine, at last week's Detroit auto show, Visnic said.
The Associated Press recently reported about whether new gun legislation would hurt the chances of having another product made in Tennessee.
State leaders will soon take up legislation that would allow employees to keep guns in their parked vehicles at work.
Last year, Volkswagen leaders were one of several companies that spoke out against the potential change.
A VW spokesman had no comment on the issue Monday, but Visnic said that the legislation likely won't impact a major business decision.
"It's one thing to express your position on it, but I doubt it's going to have very much of an impact on VW's production plans," he said.
In May 2011, Volkswagen opened its Chattanooga plant. At that time, leaders said the opening represented a major milestone for the company and a big step toward its 2018 goals.
In March of 2012, local VW leaders said they added more than 1,000 jobs in 2012, bringing the total number of employees to more than 3,000. That's more than VW leaders initially promised for Chattanooga.
The increase in employees was needed to keep up with demand and production.
In July of last year, leaders announced their soaring sales and said they had the best first half of a year since July 1973.
VW leaders ended the year with the best calendar year since 1973, and they said that was partially thanks to the Chattanooga-made Passat.
In 2012, Volkswagen sold more than twice the volume it did in 2009. And, in the month of December, the company sold 44,005 cars. That's a 35.4 percent increase, which makes it the best December for the brand since 1970.
They sold 117,023 Passats in 2012. That's a 413.7 percent increase over 2011.
In December, leaders sold 14,462 Passats.
Volkswagen's main goal is to increase the company's market share. By 2018, they want to sell 1 million vehicles per year, officials have said, according to archives.
Updated @ 2:05 p.m. on 8/28/13 to correct a factual error.
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