German auto giant Volkswagen is furthering its commitment to the U.S. market with the establishment of a new engineering center at its plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The new center should help increase local input in vehicles designed for the U.S. market as well as speed up their development time. It will also serve as a central hub for VW's activities at smaller centers around the country as well as those with universities.
According to the Times Free Press, around 130 engineers and technicians will be working at the center by 2017, with eventually as many as 200 staff being employed. The initial move-in will commence next week, with VW using a vacant building at the Chattanooga site until a dedicated building can be built.
The engineers will initially work on preparing the Chattanooga plant for a new SUV based on VW’s flexible MQB platform, and previewed by 2013’s CrossBlue concept. Production of the seven-seat SUV commences next year. The engineers will also work on other MQB-based models designed for the U.S. market, such as a next-generation Passat (a facelifted version of the current model arrives this year) and possibly a new coupe-like crossover.
In addition to the engineering center, VW has also established an academy to give employees in the purchasing department the skills and experience needed to source parts for future vehicles produced in Chattanooga. The automaker is also about to add another 130,000 square feet to the plant to increase the size of the body shop.
VW’s objective for the U.S. market remains doubling current sales volumes to 800,000 vehicles per year by 2018.