VW to add new mid-size SUV at Chattanooga plant; new model for U.S. market

Volkswagen CrossBlue concept

Volkswagen CrossBlue concept

Volkswagen will build a new 7-seat mid-size SUV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, at the same plant where it currently builds the U.S.-market Volkswagen Passat.

To give an idea of what the new SUV will look like, VW trotted out a picture of its CrossBlue concept, which it says will be the basis of the new vehicle. The concept, however, doesn’t closely match the current front end family design, at least in the headlights, but the CrossBlue headlights aren’t the most elegant design to come out of Wolfsburg. They would be a welcome departure.

Regardless of the headlights, the new VW SUV will no doubt have a bizarre name. Touareg, for example, was derived from the name of North African nomads, and Tiguan is a cross between a tiger and iguana.

The CrossBlue concept was based on VW’s modular MQB platform that will be the basis of all VW (and VW Group vehicles) with a transverse front engine, which includes the concept and, recently introduced to the U.S. market, the seventh generation Volkswagen Golf. For the new VW SUV, then, look for strut front suspension and at the rear, as a more expensive and heavier-duty model, multilink suspension instead of the twist beam rear axle of lesser VW Group models.

The new model is being developed for the North American market, and is significantly larger than the Touareg, measuring 196.3 inches long for the CrossBlue versus 188.8 inches for the Touareg. The Touareg is also a five-seater, versus seven for the new model.

The new Volkswagen SUV will be built within the existing plant at Chattanooga. According to the press statement,” Existing areas in production will be used for the assembly of the midsize SUV. A total floor space of about 538,000 sq ft will be added to the existing production facility.”

The addition of the new SUV production at the Chattanooga plant, currently the home of the U.S.-market Passat, will be seen as a reward to employees for voting against establishing a United Auto Workers union at the factory. The new SUV production will mean more than 2,000 more VW employees at the plant, plus a ripple effect of employment to the surrounding community.

Also announced was the establishment of a new and unrelated to the manufacturing plant National Research & Development and Planning Center for the North American market.

“With the midsize SUV, the expansion of the Chattanooga plant and the new development center, the focus is on the wishes of the US customer. This is also a strong signal for the US as an industrial and automobile production location. The Volkswagen brand is going on the attack again in America,” said Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn, Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft, in Wolfsburg.