A German engineering and consulting company has opened an Atlanta operation to support its work at the Volkswagen plant just across the state line in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Proplant Wolfsburg Gmbh has five engineers helping plan several aspects of the plant, including the installation of conveyor systems and industrial robots, said Markus Schick, Proplant’s chief financial officer. Five more engineers will be added on site by the end of this year. Including staff in Germany, 15 Proplant employees are working on the Chattanooga project.

For now, the Atlanta office only consists of two employees providing clerical and legal support, but Proplant hopes to hire an American executive director by January. Volkswagen is slated to begin production of mid-size sedans in Chattanooga by the beginning of next year.

It’s “no coincidence” that Proplant is based in Wolfsburg, Germany, the small city where Volkswagen has its headquarters, Mr. Schick told GlobalAtlanta by telephone from Germany. Proplant has helped the automaker develop its operations all over the world, in places like India, Russia and South Africa.

“Volkswagen is one of our key accounts and that’s why we have 20 years of experience in cooperation with Volkswagen. We know exactly their processes, their systems, their philosophy,” Mr. Schick said.

The Tennessee plant is an integral part of Volkswagen’s plans to triple its U.S. sales to 1 million vehicles per year by 2018.

Mr. Schick said Proplant is focusing initially on its deal with Volkswagen, which he said is worth “several hundred thousand” dollars. The company eventually will seek contracts with other German auto plants in the Southeast, namely BMW‘s facility in Spartanburg, S.C., and the Mercedes-Benz factory in Tuscaloosa County, Ala.

Many German auto suppliers are opening Atlanta offices to take advantage of an automotive industry cluster developing in the Southeast.

Nimak Gmbh is preparing to install 400 of its welding robots in the VW plant. Alexander Nickel, Nimak’s head of international business, told GlobalAtlanta that he would be moving to Atlanta this year to manage the company’s operations in Chattanooga and at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Alabama, where Nimak installed about 800 robots. 

“Atlanta is in the middle,” Mr. Nickel said at the time.

BMW and Mercedes-Benz are among Proplant’s customers in Germany. The company also works with other major automakers and manufacturing companies, including Porsche AG, Audi AG and Kuka Robotics Corp., one of the world’s largest industrial robot makers.

Proplant, which has 170 employees worldwide, is part of MVI Group, which provides management and engineering services to the automotive industry.

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...