VW Chattanooga plant gets green award

Volkswagen employees inspect an 2012 Passat in the assembly finish department in Chattanooga Tennessee, December 1, 2011. The plant has received a platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, and is the first and only automotive plant in the world to receive the award. REUTERS/Billy Weeks

(Reuters) - Volkswagen AG’s new assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, is the first auto plant to receive the top environmental award from the U.S. Green Building Council, the company said on Thursday.

Frank Fischer, chief executive and chairman of Volkswagen Chattanooga, said that being green saves VW money on energy and water costs.

The plant’s paint shop alone will save 50 million gallons of water over 10 years, VW said.

The plant makes the Passat sedan. VW reported November U.S. sales of about 6,000 of the cars, up from only about 300 a year earlier. The new Passat took the place of a sedan imported from Germany.

Volkswagen’s November U.S. sales rose 41 percent to about 28,400 vehicles. VW was ninth among automakers in U.S. sales through October, up from 10th in 2010.

The Chattanooga plant uses power from a local hydroelectric dam, and insulation of its walls will save 720,000 kilowatts per year on power, VW said.

The U.S. Green Building Council awarded the plant its highest rating, a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building certification.

The German automaker’s only U.S. auto plant opened a half year ago on reclaimed land that was once a U.S. Army munitions depot and factory. Much of the land on which the plant is located was maintained in its natural state, including creeks that run through it.

Reporting by Bernie Woodall in Detroit; editing by John Wallace