VW spending big on electrics

Friday, June 21, 2019, Vol. 43, No. 25

Employees at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, shown here working on Passat sedans, decided last week against unionization. The German automaker is making an $800 million investment in the plant, its only manufacturing operation in the U.S., to expand its production of electric vehicles.

-- Ap Photo/Erik Schelzig, File

Volkswagen opened its Chattanooga plant in 2011 after the German automaker was lured to Tennessee with a reported $500 million incentive package. The Chattanooga site is VW’s sole U.S. plant.

Volkswagen Chattanooga currently employs about 3,800 workers, says Amanda Plecas, a representative for the company.

The automaker announced an $800 million expansion in January to gear up for electric vehicle production in 2022. The project is expected to create 1,000 new jobs at the site. The state is going to give the automaker a $50 million infrastructure grant as part of the EV expansion project.

The United Auto Workers have been trying to unionize workers at the plant, even as the state’s Republican lawmakers and Gov. Bill Lee have opposed the idea. Five years ago, workers voted against unionizing following a concerted effort by top GOP officials, including former Sen. Bob Corker and former Gov. Bill Haslam, who urged workers to vote no.

Volkswagen Chattanooga workers shot down the idea of joining the UAW once again following a three-day secret voting process last week. Preliminary results from the vote show that 833 employees voted against union representation and 776 workers cast ballots in favor of joining the UAW.

The Chattanooga plant assembles the Volkswagen Passat, a midsize sedan, and the Atlas, a midsize sport utility vehicle. Last year, the company announced Chattanooga would be building the Atlas Cross Sport, a five-seat SUV.

– Sheila Burke