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Volkswagen begins building cars in US

February 4, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
The new Volkswagen Passat seems very European. It has subtle styling, firm seats, taut steering and suspension - all quite German.

But this VW isn't built in Germany. It's built in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Volkswagen has joined countless other international automakers and started building cars in the U.S.

VW will add 200 jobs at its plant.

Aimed to better compete with mid-size sedans like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, this latest Passat is more American-sized. There's lots of room in the seats and the trunk is huge. Options include a sound system by a very American name in music: Fender.

The Passat's base price is $19,995. Higher-end versions get fake wood trim that seems right out of Detroit, though perhaps from another era.

This actually isn't the first time Volkswagen has operated a plant in the U.S. An ill-fated effort decades ago in Pennsylvania resulted in the factory closing down after 10 years.

This is Volkswagen's new plant in Tennessee is a state-of-the-art green facility. Modern manufacturing standards mean that, in theory, quality control here is as good as in Germany.

Other German brands have already shown that it can be done successfully. If you drive a Mercedes-Benz ML Series, it was made in Alabama.

BMW builds every one of its X3, X5 and X6 crossovers in South Carolina, no matter where in the world they're sold.

Volkswagen sales are currently doing well in the U.S. One of the things that has gotten them a lot of buzz lately is their line of turbocharged clean diesel engines, which have good fuel efficiency.

However, Volkswagen isn't putting all its eggs in the diesel basket.

Volkswagen is getting into hybrids these days, though no word yet on a hybrid Passat.

At least for now, offering a hybrid in the U.S. is part of showing a green portfolio, as many American buyers are interested in hybrids.

Volkswagen is catering more and more to American tastes. Time will tell whether buyers here think of the new American-ized Passat as still being a German car.