Volkswagen adding 800 jobs at Tenn. Passat plant

Workers walk by the Volkswagen AG plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Wednesday, March 21, 2012. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, VW Chattanooga CEO and Chairman Frank Fisher and other VW executives are scheduled to attend a news conference at a VW conference center about an employees related announcement Thursday March 22, 2012. (AP Photo/Erik Schelzig)

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - Volkswagen will add 800 new jobs at its Chattanooga, Tenn., plant to boost production of the popular Passat sedan.

The jobs will increase the plant's work force to more than 3,500 by the end of the year, the German company said Thursday. The additional workers will be used to bolster the existing two shifts at the plant, and expand production to Saturday.

"We're adding a third team at this plant for a simple reason: Customers want to buy Passats," said Jonathan Browning, the president and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America.

Volkswagen sold nearly 23,000 Passats in the U.S. last year, an 83 per cent increase over 2010. Sales have been stronger so far this year. Through February, sales of the redesigned sedan topped 14,500, according to Autodata Corp.

VW built its first Passat at the plant last April. It now rolls out 35 cars an hour at the plant, which surpassed 50,000 vehicles in February.

"Volkswagen is definitely on a roll in this market," Browning said. "I can assure you, we don't plan to stop."

Volkswagen AG, the world's second-largest car company, said last week that it intends to increase deliveries and revenues in 2012 despite difficult conditions in Europe.

Earlier this month, the company said it will open a $40 million distribution centre for parts about 80 miles from Chattanooga. VW plans to hire about 45 people at the centre.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam welcomed the announcement.

"Twenty-five per cent of the Volkswagens sold in America will be made in Tennessee now," he said. "That's a pretty significant achievement for a company that rolled off its car here in April of last year."