published Friday, September 21st, 2012

Volkswagen aims high with mammoth roof sign

Volkswagen recently completed a massive sign atop its body shop that will be visible from arriving and departing flights at Chattanooga's airport as well as on Google earth.
Volkswagen recently completed a massive sign atop its body shop that will be visible from arriving and departing flights at Chattanooga's airport as well as on Google earth.
Photo by Dan Henry.
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"If I'm anywhere near it, I'll see it," David Edwards joked about the "Volkswagen Chattanooga" lettering that's about the length of two football fields.

At 650 feet long and 208 feet deep, the sign -- finished last week -- has been flat-mounted on the roof of the VW factory's body shop. The aim is not only for local air travelers to see it, but to make it big enough to show up on Google Earth, said Guenther Scherelis, VW's general manager of communications in Chattanooga.

"In the Volkswagen world, it's the first," he said.

VW has more than 60 factories worldwide.

Christina Siebold, the airport's marketing chief, said she has seen rooftop signs with company names on large hangars as she has flown into Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, "but I can't think of anything this scale."

Edwards, marketing director for Tac Air, which operates out of the Chattanooga Airport, said that "compared with typical outdoor billboards ... the sign is rather unique."

The sign was paid for with a $266,200 state grant, part of the incentives package offered VW before it chose Chattanooga.

The expense has drawn fire from a statewide government advocacy group, the Beacon Center, as a waste of taxpayer money.

But Scherelis said the sign makes it clear that VW is at home in America.

Jeannine Fallon of the auto industry website Edmunds.com said VW is working hard to increase brand awareness and market share in the United States. The sign is part of that effort.

"It doesn't surprise me they'd take advantage of this opportunity," she said.

While the company doesn't have the advertising and marketing budgets of automakers with a bigger presence in America, VW uses creative and eye-catching ads, Fallon said. Commercials run during recent Super Bowls, such as the mini Darth Vader spot, have been "fairly successful for VW in terms of creating buzz," she said.

Scherelis said he hopes the VW sign will show up on Google Earth in a month or two.

about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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