published Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

Tennessee political leaders see VW's SUV decision coming 'soon'

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
GM HIRES VW'S TOP U.S. SPOKESMAN

General Motors is hiring Volkswagen’s top U.S. spokesman as its new public relations chief.

The company announced Monday that Tony Cervone would become senior vice president of communications effective immediately.

  • photo
    This Volkswagen image shows the midsize SUV VW plans to build for the American market.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

A pair of Tennessee political leaders say they're upbeat about prospects of Volkswagen's Chattanooga plant attracting a new product line and see the German automaker revealing its plans soon.

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said Monday in Chattanooga that efforts to attract a new sport utility vehicle for the factory are "moving in a very positive way."

"It's important to the company to announce soon what they're going to do," Corker said. "They're actually getting behind relative to new products in the U.S. This new line is one they really believe will expand their market share in America. I know they've got to announce it pretty soon."

State Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, who heads the House Transportation Committee, said he believes that "we'll hear something very soon" about where the SUV will be produced as Chattanooga competes with VW facilities in Mexico.

"I'm still very optimistic the prospects are very good," Dean said.

VW has termed Chattanooga as the front-runner for the new product line that would be expected to create several hundred million dollars in new investment and upwards of 1,000 more jobs at the Enterprise South industrial park plant.

Corker, speaking at a downtown Chattanooga event in which online giant Google was helping about 100 small businesses get their companies on the web, said discussions are moving as he expected after the United Auto Workers pulled its appeal of its union vote at the Chattanooga plant about a month ago.

"As I thought all along, as I thought a couple of months ago, as I still think today, I really believe they're moving in a very positive way," Corker said.

The former Chattanooga mayor said he had dinner with German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently, who stated that VW's problem is that it needs to make more products that Americans want to drive.

"It's very important to their business strategy that they go ahead and start building this new SUV," Corker said. If not, he said, the carmaker will "be so behind in the marketplace."

He declined to give a timetable for when an announcement may take place. But, he added, that by being in Chattanooga, the company will more fully understand what Americans want to purchase off of auto dealer showrooms.

"It makes a lot of difference in that regard," Corker said.

He said he continues to speak with Gov. Bill Haslam, noting they spoke both Sunday and last Friday.

I'm still very positive and feel like Chattanooga is the best place for VW," Corker said. "Hopefully, that's what we'll see happen."

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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