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Volkswagen investing $800 million, adding 1,000 jobs at Tennessee plant

Volkswagen is expanding its operations in Tennessee.

Rendering courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Volkswagen is spending $800 million to expand its Chattanooga, Tennessee plant as the company readies for large-scale battery-powered electric vehicle (BEV) production. The plan calls for the addition of 1,000 jobs and 564,000 square feet of space.

"This is a big, big moment for this company," said Scott Keogh, president and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America. "Expanding local production sets the foundation for our sustainable growth in the U.S. Electric vehicles are the future of mobility and Volkswagen will build them for millions, not just millionaires."

The Chattanooga plant will be Volkwagen's U.S. base for BEV production. The company rolled out long-range EV production earlier this month at its Zwickau, Germany plant. The production version of the ID CROZZ will initially be assembled in Germany but production will move to Chattanooga in 2022 when the expansion opens.

That doesn't meant that the entire plant is converting to BEV production. Volkswagen will continue to built both internal combustion engine vehicles as well as BEVs on the same assembly line.

VW currently builds its midsize Atlas SUV and Passat sedan in Chattanooga. The forthcoming Atlas Cross Sport, sporting the redesigned "R" logo, will also be assembled there.

Previously, Volkswagen has announced plans to build a 198,000-square-foot battery pack assembly plant at the Chattanooga site.

"With Volkswagen's expansion, Tennessee is on the cutting edge of the move to electric vehicles and our workforce is up to the challenge." Tennessee Gov. Lee said. "We look forward to a continued partnership with VW and the growth of advanced manufacturing in Chattanooga and beyond."

Ambassador Haber added, "The United States plays an absolutely central role in German carmakers' global activities. German carmakers like Volkswagen have already invested here, in Tennessee and in the U.S. as whole, creating jobs and training young employees. I wish Volkswagen of America and this new facility for electric vehicles all the best and a lot of success."

Tom du Plessis, Volkswagen Chattanooga CEO, said the expansion signals the start of new, high-tech processes in the plant. Hiring for the new assembly will begin in early 2020 and will continue as production ramps up. Positions added for the expansion include supervisors, specialists and a variety of engineers specializing in electrical, software, mechanical, manufacturing, chemical and quality control.

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First-year Ford F-150 Lightning production numbers doubled
Ford

Ford has begun serial production of the new F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck, marking what could be one of the most important days in recent automotive history. The first trucks rolled off the assembly line at Ford's Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Michigan today, so America's best-selling truck has finally gone electric. Ford wants to sell two million EVs per year by 2026 and have half of its global sales volume to be electric by 2030.

Ford F-150 LightningPast meets future: Ford's new electric pickup will be the F-150 Lightningautomotivemap.com

Ford has seen extreme demand for the trucks, with 200,000 reservations since the books opened. To deliver, the automaker plans to increase production to an annual rate of 150,000 units by next year, which involved huge investments in the Rouge Center and created hundreds of jobs. Ford's total investment for the F-150 Lightning crests $1 billion across Michigan alone, and has created 1,700 jobs across various facilities in the state.

Ford F-150 LightningThe first production trucks left the factory today.
Ford Motor Company

Though the Lightning starts around $40,000, the most mainstream models will cost much more than that. The F-150 Lightning Pro, while affordable, is a stripped-down truck intended for commercial buyers. It's still a forward-looking electric truck with amazing capabilities, but it lacks much of the creature comforts and features that everyday drivers expect. Higher trims get the latest driver assistance features, including BlueCruise, which is Ford's semi-autonomous hands-free driving assistant. A 12-inch touchscreen is standard, along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, navigation, a Wi-Fi hotspot, and more.

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Electric pickup truck

Ford F-150 Lightning could get tank turn

Ford patented a tank turn feature in late 2020.

Ford

The F-150 Lightning is packed with cool tech and capability, but we're learning that Ford has even bigger plans for its first electric pickup. Inside EVs found an exciting document on the Lightning Owners Forum that shows ford applied to patent a tank turn feature like the one we saw Rivian pull off a few years ago, where the truck spins around a center point using its electric motors. Rivian's tank turn feature still hasn't made it to market, so it's possible that Ford beats them to the punch.

Ford F-150 LightningTank turn allows the truck to spin while almost completely stationary.Ford

Ford applied for the patent in October 2020, but it's just now making its way out. In the document, Ford gives an example of how it could work: "Methods, apparatus, systems and articles of manufacture are disclosed to perform a tank turn. An example vehicle includes a first wheel and a second wheel, the first wheel located on an end of a first axle, the second wheel located on an end of the second axle, the end of the first axle opposite to the end of the second axle, a first suspension coupled to the first wheel, a second suspension coupled to the second wheel, and a controller to drive the first axle in a first direction, drive the second axle in the second direction and decrease a first suspension load of the first suspension and a second suspension load of the second suspension."

As Inside EVs points out, Rivian's tank turn feature employs the R1 T's quad-motor setup to drive each wheel individually. The F-150 Lightning doesn't currently have a four-motor choice and instead offers two motors – one on each axle. It's important to note that Rivian patented tank turn and showed that it could work, but there hasn't yet been a production vehicle that offers the capability. Toyota filed a patent in 2019, but again it's just paperwork at this point.

Ford F-150 LightningNo automaker has brought tank turn to production yet.

To achieve the turn, Ford has a few options. The most obvious would be to offer a quad-motor upgrade in future model years. It's unclear if such a feature is in the works or if Ford plans to provide beefier versions of the Lightning, such as a Raptor variant with upgraded motors. The automaker could also design gearing to reverse the wheels on one side while the others drive forward, or it could use braking to lock the wheels and tighten the turning radius.

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