“The Best Things in Life Are Free… for a College Student”
(A Review of Volkswagen’s Chattanooga Ride and Drive Event)
By Rachel Hunter
On Friday, September 12, 2008, I took my first “field trip” in college… as a senior. As children, we all counted down the days until we took our next field trip because the destination was always someplace exciting such as the aquarium, a dentist’s office, or the local high school. Since field trips like these, many years have gone by, but this past Friday’s “field trip” stands out as by far the best I’ve ever had. Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. recently announced its plans to build its first assembly plant in America since 1978 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. As a 16-year resident of Chattanooga, I am well aware that from an economic standpoint this is the biggest news that our city has ever received. However, as a marketing major at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s College of Business, I began to see big opportunities, as did many of my collegiate marketing peers; hence my excitement upon learning that based upon academic excellence, I was selected to participate in Volkswagen’s Ride and Drive event, taking place jointly at UTC and Chattanooga State Technical Community College, our “sister” college. To kick-start the day, a small-scale press conference was held on Chattanooga State’s campus to introduce one of Volkswagen’s many new automobiles entering the market this year, the CC or “comfort coupe”. Not only did many students, faculty members, and other area residents enjoy the opportunity to listen to Volkswagen’s top representatives in the areas of public relations, product planning, marketing and communications speak about the new CC, we were also able to interact with them. Before this Ride and Drive event, I had never attended a press conference, so participating in such unfamiliar territory was a bit of a rush. Responding to questions concerning the CC, the new assembly plant, marketing campaigns, and product development, the Volkswagen representatives were so impressively knowledgeable and truly excited about what their company is doing and what direction it is headed that their enthusiasm seemed contagious.
At this point, if I thought the field trip had hit its climax for excitement, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Lined up along the outside of one of Chattanooga State’s buildings were approximately thirteen Volkswagen CC’s parked in perfect arrangement like migrating ducks in flight. Better yet, they were screaming for us to drive them… and drive them we did. I opted to ride in the car as opposed to driving (so many waivers, so little time to read them all) in order to fully absorb all of the CC’s interior qualities. My favorite aspects of the interior were the stylish, yet almost race-like seats and the sliding panels concealing cup holders and storage space. The CC has a sleek exterior that is appealing to any individual at any stage in life. I can attest that many of the students were raving about selling their current cars to purchase the CC. As far as the ride to and from UTC’s campus is concerned, I wouldn’t say we stuck to all of the rules of the road. What’s a real test-drive without some real, yet reasonable, fun? Our driver continuously claimed that she couldn’t allow herself to purchase a CC (as much as she wanted to) due to the fact that she would get herself too many speeding tickets. If statements like that don’t corroborate the ease and elegance of the ride, I don’t know what could. As I rode in the CC, be it front seat or back, I was reminded again of being a child. This time, the comfort of riding in the CC took me back to taking long trips in my family’s car and being able to fall asleep for hours at the snap of a finger.
I didn’t know much about Volkswagen as a company before this event and I still wouldn’t call myself an expert, but I am now one of the many Tennesseans who are joyous and grateful to have such a wonderful company nestle in Tennessee. Looking back at my college-level “field trip”, I know that the experience was a once-in-a-lifetime event. Not often does a college student from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga get to have one-on-one conversations with representatives from a well known international corporation, personally test their unreleased product, and then laugh together over a chicken and mashed potato lunch. That’s an experience.