The American-built Volkswagen Passat is a success story of epic proportions. First, Volkswagen redesigned the Passat with American drivers in mind. Then, they moved production to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Then, they put a kid in a Darth Vader costume to advertise the futuristic styling and power of the new Passat. As if that wasn't enough, among the many awards piled onto the sedan, the 2012 Passat is the Motor Trend Car of the Year.
But here's where the story gets really cool - just a few decades ago, Volkswagen's first venture into building their cars stateside didn't go so well. But like any smart business, they've learned from their mistakes. And their success with the Passat in Tennessee speaks volumes, not just about the brand, but about the town in which they chose to build their plant.
Frank Fischer, CEO of VW's Chattanooga Operations explains that by using VW's four pillars of business (product, plant design, parts, and people), they were able to turn the last production flop on its head. He says, "We looked at our own experience and we looked at others' experiences, and then...we found our own way."1
More specifically, when Volkswagen opened the plant in Westmoreland, Pennsylvania, communications between Europe and the States weren't the best. They used old GM machinery to build an Americanized Rabbit that didn't go over so well with US drivers, and getting parts from Germany was a tough economic situation. It's all different now though - completely different now, in fact. As you can see by the way the new Passat is selling.
As for the city of Chattanooga, Mayor Ron Littlefield explains, "Walter Cronkite told the world that we were the dirtiest city in American 40 years ago. From a quality-of-life sense, we feel like we've done a pretty good job of building the city back. The thing it was lacking was a manufacturing heart."2 And when VW showed up ready to get that heart beating again, people were ready to work.
VW's Fischer went on to say, "Frankly, the success we're having now, nobody really expected."3
Not that we're entirely surprised. Stop by and see us at Fletcher Jones Volkswagen to see the sedan that's taken America by storm - the 2012 Volkswagen Passat. We're located at 1111 N Clark St Chicago, IL 60610, and a member of our team is always happy to answer any of your questions and arrange a test drive.