published Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

Filmmaker shooting spot at VW's Chattanooga plant for Detroit auto show

John Lionel Bandmann, head of production for United Visions, speaks to members of the media at the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant in 2010 as his crew makes a film to be shown at the Detroit Auto Show.
John Lionel Bandmann, head of production for United Visions, speaks to members of the media at the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant in 2010 as his crew makes a film to be shown at the Detroit Auto Show.
Photo by John Rawlston.

An award-winning filmmaker was at Chattanooga's Volkswagen plant Monday shooting a segment for the carmaker for the Detroit auto show next week, but he shed no light on if the city may land assembly of a sport utility vehicle soon.

John Lionel Bandmann, president and editor-in-chief of United Visions Moving Media, said it's key for the German carmaker to keep a focus on the Tennessee factory and the U.S. market.

"Chattanooga plays a special role," he said in an interview at the plant, adding that it means a lot for VW to succeed in the U.S. "It's not just another plant."

Bandmann wasn't specific about the nature of the film piece his company shot for VW, and he said he doesn't know what will happen concerning production of the SUV.

However, he said the segment does include Frank Fischer, who oversees the automaker's operations in Chattanooga.

"It keeps Chattanooga on the agenda," he said about the spot that will be part of Volkswagen's press conference Monday at the North American International Auto Show.

A different United Visions film, "The Chattanooga Story: A German Carmaker Goes to Tennessee" recently won a key award at a Cannes film festival. That 100-minute documentary film will have its U.S. debut Thursday in Chattanooga at an invitation-only viewing before about 350 people.

Meanwhile, Chattanooga is said to be the leading contender to make the all-new, seven-seat SUV.

Marc Trahan, Volkswagen of America's executive vice president of quality, said at a Michigan auto conference late last year that the Chattanooga plant is the front-runner to produce the SUV, which was unveiled as a concept of at the 2013 Detroit auto show.

Trahan said the company believes it needs the full-size SUV in the U.S. market.

Plant workers are looking forward to making the SUV, if Chattanooga receives the nod from VW officials.

Dave Gleeson, a VW factory employee, said the plant was designed to be expanded to make more than one vehicle. Currently, the site assembles just the midsize Passat sedan.

"Every other [Volkswagen] plant has at least two or three," he said.

Mike Burton, another worker, said that attracting the SUV will mean job security for employees at the plant. Mexico and Chattanooga are said to be competing for the work that is expected to produce hundreds of more jobs and millions of dollars in new investment.

Bandmann, whose company is based in Germany, called Chattanooga "a fascinating place."

"It's important that the attention stay on Chattanooga, whatever VW does around the globe," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

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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