Governor Bill Lee was at Enterprise South Industrial Park on Wednesday to celebrate the start of an $800 million electric vehicle plant by Volkswagen designed to employ about 1,000 workers.
The Chattanooga facility, with 700,000 square feet of space, will be the first to produce Volkswagen's modular electric toolkit chassis, also known as MEB. The new electric model may be out as soon as 2022.
VW plans to expand its body shop by 564,000 square feet and add a new 198,000-square-foot battery pack assembly facility.
Volkswagen began long-range EV production earlier this month in Zwickau, Germany, and will then roll out assembly worldwide, including in Anting and Foshan, in China, in 2020 and in the German cities of Emden and Hanover by 2022. The Chattanooga site will be VW's North-American hub for EV manufacturing.
Governor Lee said, "Volkswagen's commitment to investing here and to the electric vehicle industry will transform the motor vehicle industry over the next few years. This company will make that possible."
The governor stated, "When we have great companies and great employees and great cities like Chattanooga, it makes my job much easier to sell this state to other people around the country."
State Economic Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe said the state decided early on in the Lee administration to commit significant resources to the electric vehicle plant.
He said there are now some 125 German companies operating in the state with some 20,000 employees.
The German ambassador said the project demonstrates "continued confidence in the state of Tennessee" as a production site.
County Mayor Jim Coppinger said Volkswagen last year paid over $4 million in school taxes. He said the firm has invested some $1 million in 16 academic E Labs.
He said former County Mayor Claude Ramsey "helped set this all up."
Among those at the event were former Chattanooga mayors Ron Littlefield and Bob Corker.
Construction on the plant addition is expected to take about `17 months.
It is the third major venture by VW at the former VAAP site at Tyner.
Volkswagen at first began producing a sedan at the site, then expanded with an SUV line.
Almost a million vehicles have come off the assembly line at the Chattanooga plant.
Volkswagen currently builds the midsize Atlas SUV and the Passat sedan at the Chattanooga factory. A five-seat version of the Atlas, the Atlas Cross Sport, began production in Chattanooga in October. It goes on sale early next year.