By Beth Miller

Volkswagen’s latest commercial for the new Routan minivan has Brooke Shields step onto stage and is seated next to Max, a pristine 1964 Volkswagen Beetle and the new “face” of VW. Max paid Chattanooga a visit last week bringing with him a fleet of new 2009 Volkswagen CCs in VW’s Ride and Drive Event.

A handful of UTC and Chattanooga State Communication and Business students were selected to represent their school at a mock press conference hosted by Chattanooga State Community College. The conference was designed to answer any questions we and the community might have about the new plant scheduled to open in 2011, VW employment opportunities or anything concerning their products.

I had the opportunity to test drive the CC (Comfort Coupe) considered a sporty sedan competing with the Mercedes-Benz CLS-class. VW plans to market the CC to “mid-40s affluent males,” according to Laura Soave, VW’s Marketing Manager. It will carry a price tag around $26,000- $40,000 compared to a starting price of just under $70,000 for the Mercedes-Benz equivalent.

We were divided into groups of four and allowed to choose one of approximately 15, beautifully designed CCs. Each vehicle contained a drive route that took us down Dupont Parkway, to Hixson Pike, through the S-curves to UTC. It was a “drive-it-like-you-stole-it” moment despite the many traffic cameras.

Whitney Gardner, a fellow Communications student and senior, road shotgun and kept me on track, literally. Erica Tuggle and Mike Miller, also Communication majors, made up the rest of our group and proved to be brave participants. I managed to get so wrapped up in the handling and performance ability of the CC that I just kept driving right past UTC. Fortunately for us there were no penalties for tardiness. Whitney quickly corrected me and we managed to make it just in time for the “rubbing of the elbows” with the VW representatives.

UTC’s University Center hosted a luncheon for the event and was graced with the presence of community leaders such as Mayor Ron Littlefield, Representatives for Zach Wamp, Lamar Alexander, Bob Corker, as well as UTC’s Chancellor Roger Brown, and Assistant Vice Chancellor Chuck Cantrell. After cleaning our plates, we headed back outside to locate another CC to carry us back to Chattanooga State. This time Whitney stepped behind the wheel and I must admit I was a bit nervous. She is known for her “Dukes of Hazard” driving style, but she managed to get us to our destination safely. But before returning the CC we decided to make sure everyone noticed our new ride. We blew the horn repeatedly at other drivers and pedestrians as we waved and smiled like Vanna turning another letter. We conveniently got lost on the way back and had to make a u-turn on Amnicola Highway. A trip to Florida was mentioned, but we thought it would be better in the long run to return the car.

Upon arrival to Chattanooga State we hurriedly lined up the cars. No one wanted to give up his/her car just yet. We continued to take pictures and drag out the event as long as we could.

The start of the VW event was exciting and highly anticipated while the ending proved to be as abrupt as it was unwelcome. I think the event was a big hit and I look forward to Max’s next visit to Chattanooga.

Media Relations Contacts: Email Chuck Cantrell or call (423) 425-4363.