At any car factory, the one-millionth vehicle serves as a milestone of success. With Volkswagen of America’s Chattanooga plant hitting that mark last week, it’s worth looking back at some memorable moments for Volkswagen production– and what’s coming next.
Sixty-five years ago this August, the one-millionth Volkswagen rolled off the assembly line in Wolfsburg. Following World War II, the Volkswagen factory started slowly producing the Beetle and the Bus, but by 1955 the Beetle was on its way to becoming one of the best-selling vehicles ever. To celebrate the moment, the lucky one-millionth Beetle was painted gold, with bumpers lined in rhinestones. The car rolled off the assembly line in a celebration with nearly 150,000 people joining in for the festivities. The golden, one-millionth Beetle now makes its home in Wolfsburg’s AutoStadt Museum.
Worldwide popularity of the Beetle led Volkswagen to open its first plant in Mexico in 1967, in Puebla, southeast of Mexico City. From there, Volkswagen began building Beetles that quickly became known as the “vocho” in Mexico. While sales in the United States ended in the 1970s, the original Beetle remained a popular and economical choice in Mexico. In September 1980, a red Beetle marked the one-millionth vehicle produced at the factory, with a celebration that gathered Mexican government officials, Volkswagen executives, local business partners, and hundreds of employees together. The original Beetle would remain in production there until 2003.
Eight years later, in May 2011, the first Volkswagen assembled in Chattanooga – an all-new Passat sedan – rolled off the production line. It’s taken just nine years for the Chattanooga factory to produce its one-millionth vehicle, with more than 800,000 Passat, 100,000 Atlas vehicles, and thousands of the recently launched 5-seater Atlas Cross Sport vehicles.
The Chattanooga plant will also be Volkswagen’s North American base for assembling electric vehicles, with the ID.4 SUV slated as the plant’s first electric model. The next million vehicles out of Chattanooga will be quite different than the milestone vehicles that have come before.