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Volkswagen to keep Passat name on new midsize

By Ken Thomas

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Jan. 9 2011 8:31 p.m. MST

DETROIT — Volkswagen is keeping the Passat name for a new midsize vehicle that will be built at the company's new U.S. plant in Tennessee.

Volkswagen of America Inc. announced plans Sunday to maintain the Passat nameplate at an event before media previews of the North American International Auto Show. The German automaker plans to reveal the new car to journalists on Monday.

VW said the Passat will carry a starting price of around $20,000, allowing it to compete with its rivals in the competitive midsize segment. Current Passat models, which are built in Germany, start at $27,195.

The new Passat is a key part of the company's plan to triple sales in the U.S. by 2018. Jonathan Browning, VW's North American president and CEO, said that while the company thrived in Europe in past years, the company "became a marginal player here in one of the world's most important markets. That is no longer acceptable."

Volkswagen will produce the new Passat at its $1 billion Chattanooga, Tenn., plant. The car is expected to go on sale later this year.

The facility, which will employ 2,000 workers, is the company's first U.S. assembly plant since it closed its New Stanton, Pa., plant in 1988 following disappointing sales.

Volkswagen sold about 360,000 vehicles in the U.S. in 2010, a 3 percent increase over the previous year, and has outlined ambitious plans to sell 1 million vehicles in the U.S. by 2018.

VW said a diesel version of the car, the Passat TDI, will get 43 miles per gallon on the highway, with a range of about 800 miles.

Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, and Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., attended the event, which was headlined by the rock band Train.

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