CHATTANOOGA -- Volkswagen Group's new $1 billion factory here has begun production of the 2012 Passat that will go on sale this fall.
Frank Fischer, 49, who has led the Chattanooga project since its inception in 2008, previously was plant manager at VW's plant in Braunschweig, Germany. He says the new plant takes VW manufacturing to a new level.
At the recent grand opening, Fischer spoke with Felix E. Bauer of Automobilwoche, a sister publication of Automotive News.
Q: VW closed its only U.S. assembly plant, in Westmoreland, Pa., in 1988. What are you doing differently this time?
A: This time, we have a product that has the Volkswagen gene but is absolutely tailored to American customers. Furthermore, at that time, we bought a ready-made factory. So we were constrained.
In our factory here, we were able to integrate all the experience from our 61 factories so far, and from Russia and India. And we have a whole range of American employees whose experience at other manufacturers here in the U.S. has had an impact, too.
What sets this factory apart?
It is the factory of easy access and fast reaction. As a factory manager, I have always wanted that. The target was to localize 85 percent of all parts, basing them on the dollar. This means currency independence. In addition, we have our own machine tool crew on site. It was involved in tool methods for sheet metal and plastic parts. This way, we always achieve top quality with our tools.