The greater Chattanooga area, including Northwest Georgia, will become a hub of the automotive industry, Don Jackson, Volkswagen Group of Americas’ president for manufacturing, said here on Tuesday.

“In the next several years, you’ll see this corner of the state, all three states surrounding us, the industry continuing to grow,” Jackson said. “We really think this area is perfect for the automobile business.”

Jackson spoke on Tuesday to the Dalton Rotary Club about Volkswagen’s new plant in Chattanooga, its 62nd plant worldwide, but its first in either the United States or Canada. The plant will build a new mid-size sedan.

Jackson said the plant will create about 2,000 new jobs and about 9,500 additional jobs at the suppliers for the plant.

“We’ve already gotten over 65,000 applications,” he said. “We are going through the process of identifying the team members that will work for us. It’s about a four- or five-stage process.”

At the start of the year, Volkswagen had 300 employees on board.

 “This summer we will build our first vehicles,” he said.

Jackson said some people have asked why Volkswagen is moving so forcefully on the plant given the current recession. He said the North American market is very important to the company. It currently has total sales in North America of about 200,000 vehicles. But Jackson said company officials want to increase that to 800,000 units a year.

The Chattanooga plant has the capacity to build 150,000 cars annually. But Jackson said that could be increased from 200,000 to 220,000. Current plans call for just one model to be built in the plant. But Jackson said the plant was built with some flexibility to allow other models to be built there.