| DETROIT, Sept 17
DETROIT, Sept 17 Volkswagen AG is
leaning toward building a seven-passenger crossover utility
vehicle at its plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, rather than at
its facility in Puebla in Mexico, a U.S. executive of the German
automaker said on Tuesday.
Marc Trahan, executive vice president for U.S. quality, said
cost will be the primary factor in the final decision.
The decision will be made by the end of the year, he told
reporters after a speech to the Automotive Press Association in
Trahan said the Chattanooga plant, which now builds the
compact Passat sedan and opened in 2011, was made to produce
more than one vehicle.
Adding another vehicle to the plant's output is a given, he
said. "It's not a question of if, it's only a question of when
and what," he said.
While he said VW has not yet made a decision, when asked
which of the two plants was in the lead to build the
seven-passenger crossover utility vehicle, he said,
Trahan would not say whether an effort by the United Auto
Workers union to represent the 2,500 workers at Chattanooga
would influence the final decision.
Volkswagen has told its workers in Chattanooga that it is in
talks with the UAW regarding placing a German-style worker
representation model, which would include both blue- and
white-collar workers, at the plant. The issue is divisive among
the workforce, and many Tennessee politicians have been vocal in
their opposition to the UAW being involved at Chattanooga.
The UAW has said that more than half of the workers at the
plant have signed cards indicating support for the union.
The seven-passenger crossover vehicle is to be built on the
same basic modular platform as the VW Golf and Jetta sedans.
The vehicle, named the "Cross Blue" concept when it was
shown at the Detroit auto show last January, would be sold in
the U.S. market by either 2016 or 2017, Trahan said.
A crossover has SUV-like style and utility but rides and
handles more like a car than a truck. Automakers are rolling out
more crossovers in every size and price segment as consumers,
attracted by the flexibility and functionality afforded by CUVs,
continue to move away from more traditional body styles such as
sedans and wagons.