February 13, 2014 / 2:00 PM / 6 years ago

VW counters U.S. senator, says new product not linked to union vote

DETROIT, Feb 13 (Reuters) - German automaker Volkswagen AG , in a brief but bluntly worded statement Thursday, said a vote this week on union representation at its Chattanooga, Tennessee plant would have no bearing on whether it will build a new crossover vehicle there.

The statement counters U.S. Senator Bob Corker’s announcement yesterday that he had been “assured” that if workers at the Chattanooga factory reject United Auto Worker representation, the company would reward the plant with a new product to build.

“There is no connection between our Chattanooga employees’ decision about whether to be represented by a union and the decision about where to build a new product for the U.S. market,” said Frank Fischer, CEO and chairman of Volkswagen Chattanooga in a statement early Thursday.

Corker, a Republican senator from Tennessee, made the assertion, which ran counter to previous public statements by VW, on the first of a three-day secret ballot election of blue-collar workers at the Chattanooga plant on whether to allow the UAW to represent them.

Corker has long been an opponent of the union, which he says hurts economic and job growth in Tennessee, a charge that UAW officials say is untrue.

“I’ve had conversations today and based on those am assured that should the workers vote against the UAW, Volkswagen will announce in the coming weeks that it will manufacture its new mid-size SUV here in Chattanooga,” said Corker Wednesday, without saying with whom he held the conversations.

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