VW Adds $27 Million Center to Aid Expansion in U.S.

Volkswagen AG, Europe’s largest carmaker, opened a $27 million technical center in California today to expand its engineering capabilities in the region as part of a push to accelerate U.S. sales.

The 64,000-square-foot (5,946-square-meter) Test Center California in Oxnard, 62 miles (100 kilometers) north of Los Angeles, initially will be staffed by 50 engineers and technicians, VW said today in a statement. An additional 250 engineers from Wolfsburg, Germany-based VW’s Audi, Bentley, Bugatti and Lamborghini brands will also use the test center, said Darryll Harrison, a Volkswagen spokesman.

“The expansion of our global R&D footprint in the U.S. reinforces our ongoing commitment to this market and will help to position us as a high quality brand here and abroad,” David Geanacopoulos, executive vice president for Volkswagen’s U.S. unit, said in the statement.

The Oxnard facility is part of what VW says is a $4 billion program to boost its market share in the U.S., where it trails Asian competitors including Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Hyundai Motor Co. VW-brand sales are up 34 percent this year through July, following the 2011 opening of a $1 billion auto-assembly plant in Tennessee and addition of a new Passat sedan. VW wants to become the world’s largest automaker by 2018.

VW’s Test Center California has laboratories for emissions testing and parts analysis, a workshop with more than 16 in-ground lifts, and a dealer service and training center, the company said. It will also do research on electric-vehicle systems and bio-diesel, Harrison said in a phone interview.

Volkswagen also has a facility in Auburn Hills, Michigan, that includes a technical-support staff and a test track as well as a proving ground in Arizona. The carmaker’s U.S. unit is based in Herndon, Virginia.

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