Volkswagen in Chattanooga getting New Leadership

The Chattanooga Volkswagen plant’s first and only chief is returning to Germany, sources said Wednesday.

Frank Fischer, named six years ago to head the $1 billion facility that marked the automaker’s return to making cars in America, is expected to shift to VW’s Emden plant, according to multiple people within the company.

The Emden facility employs about 8,600 people and produces up to 1,200 vehicles a day, including the European version of the Passat midsize sedan, according to VW. The Chattanooga plant assembles the Passat model that is sold in North America.

VW couldn’t be reached for comment, though an announcement is expected this week and could come as early as today. The name of Fischer’s successor couldn’t be confirmed.

Fischer was appointed head of the project team for the Chattanooga plant effective Oct. 1, 2008.

He is credited with overseeing construction of the huge Chattanooga factory amid the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. The factory started production on schedule, and the new-to-America Passat was named Motor Trend’s Car of the Year.

Fischer, who has an engineering degree from the University of Washington in Seattle, also helped manage the hiring of more than 2,000 employees — most of which had never stepped foot in an auto manufacturing plant before. The plant now employs about 2,700 people.

Earlier this year, the factory’s production employees rejected a two-year organizing effort by the United Auto Workers by a 712 to 626 vote. The UAW has appealed the election to the National Labor Relations Board and sought a revote, alleging interference by outside groups and Tennessee political leaders.

Fischer, who came to Chattanooga from a post as plant manager at Volkswagen’s facility in Brunswick, Germany, has been with the carmaker since 1991.

He became head of body construction at VW’s Wolfsburg plant in Germany, and he moved to Emden as production manager in 2001. He was the plant manager at Brunswick from March 2005 before he was picked for the Chattanooga job.

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