EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


May 26, 2013

A day on the line changes perception of modern factories


It didn’t.

Simon leapt over the line and came racing down my pitch and, like an emergency room doctor, quickly fixed the problem.

I was mortified; Underwood laughed. “We’ve all been there,” he said. “The key is to not get flustered.”

When the bell rang and the line stopped, I was surprised. I never expected to endure 10 hours. Neither had the communications manager at the plant. Yet I had. Even better, I was filled with the satisfaction of having built something that would be highly valued by a family somewhere in America.

Some people have asked if I would take a job at the plant. Well, one day is not a lifetime. It’s easy to say yes after your only shift has ended, you’ve had a cocktail and a nice dinner and the ibuprofen has kicked in.

And I realized that, perhaps, my affinity for the job comes from the fact that the newsroom does the same thing every day. Similar job, different factory.

Still, I’ll take this one over that one. But I will always appreciate what it takes to assemble a quality car, perfectly, 40 jobs an hour, 10 hours a day, six days a week, 52 weeks a year.

Larry Printz is automotive editor at The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va. He can be reached at larry.printz@pilotonline.com.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

About VW's Chattanooga plant Plant size: 1,400 acres Opened: May 24, 2011 Cost: $1 billion Employees: 3,500 Production capacity: 150,000 Passat sedans annually, mostly for the U.S. market, although some cars are exported to Canada, Mexico, South Korea and the Persian Gulf. Future capacity: There's enough land to build another line. The plant is part of Volkswagen's plans to increase annual U.S. sales to 800,000 by 2018. Plant amenities: Fitness center, tobacco-free, cafeteria, clothing store, child-care center adjacent to plant, company health care center nearby.

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