VW CEO says Ford plants could be used to boost U.S. production
Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess, who visited the White House earlier this week along with Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche, has indicated that Volkswagen is considering building a second plant in the U.S. and that the automaker could do so as a part of a manufacturing alliance with Ford.
Earlier this month, Volkswagen and Ford indicated that they were in talks about a strategic alliance, one that could see Volkswagen use Ford plants in the U.S. for car production. Volkswagen's sole plant in the U.S. is in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which produces the Atlas and Passat for the U.S. market. Diess had indicated earlier that the automaker could open a second plant in Tennessee but that nothing had been finalized yet. As part of the alliance with Ford, however, Volkswagen could contribute platforms to Ford's European operations in exchange for using Ford plants in the U.S. to build VW Group vehicles for the U.S. market. The driver of the discussions with Ford is Volkswagen's need for additional production capacity in the U.S., beyond the Chattanooga plant, that could produce Porsche and Audi models for the U.S. market.
A decision regarding a second plant could come as early as the first half of 2019.
All Audis sold in the U.S. are currently produced outside the country, but the idea and objective need for an Audi plant has existed for some time, at least a decade since Audi's dramatic resurgence in the U.S. after a relatively stagnant period in the 1990s. Rumors of discussions about an Audi plant for the U.S. did not emerge until the mid-2010s, when Audi's lineup became more focused on SUVs and crossovers.
Volkswagen executives have hinted in recent months that a potential Audi plant in U.S. would focus on SUVs and crossovers, as well as future electric models part of Volkswagen's ID range, due to enter production soon. Volkswagen executives have mentioned in the past that the Porsche Cayenne and the Audi Q5, Q7 and Q8 SUVs are potential vehicles that could be produced in the U.S. in a future plant.
Any second plant for VW and Audi vehicles in the U.S. would have to be created with EVs in mind, as Volkswagen's ambitious electric vehicle strategy will essentially see the last generation of gasoline engines developed in the year 2026, as a top-ranking VW executive indicated this week. This means that any major future investment by VW in U.S. facilities will effectively see the last few generations of gas-engined models produced, before switching to mostly-EV production beyond 2040.