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Among longhorns and bison

Two Volkswagen employees from Chattanooga, TN, Alicia and Noah Walker, board an Atlas to visit the Old West-style town of Pullman City in the Harz Mountains of Germany and experience the daily life of cowboys and Indians in the Wild West.

The Atlas surges powerfully − Alicia and Noah Walker test the acceleration of the 206-hp SUV in the “living Western town.”

He smiles with satisfaction, his hands resting on the steering wheel. “It’s really comfortable to drive, and not much can affect its stability.” Noah Walker steers the Atlas in a southerly direction from Wolfsburg, his wife Alicia at his side. Both are from Chattanooga in southeastern Tennessee.

It’s there in the American South that the Atlas rolls off the production line. The Passat has also been produced there since the site was established in 2011. The Atlas is a 7-seater SUV, which was especially developed for the American market and is also made there. It is ­intended to usher in the brand’s comeback overseas. The name is an ancient one. In Greek mythology, Atlas is the giant upon whose shoulders the universe rests. Noah says, “That is an extremely apt name, because a lot of hopes also rest on our SUV from Chattanooga.”

In the “wild, wild West” – the trio from Chattanooga enjoy the atmosphere of the Old West town in the Harz Mountains.

The Atlas is the largest of the Volkswagen cars in the United States. It is more than five meters long, nearly two meters high and has three full-sized rows of seats. That is a hefty SUV by European standards. In Noah’s eyes, that is exactly the right size for Americans. It’s obvious that he enjoys driving this 5-meter-class SUV from his Chattanooga home. To him it’s a piece of America in Germany. He knows the site, the Passat that is built there, and the Atlas like the back of his hand – all good reasons to make him a bridge-builder. For this is what Noah has been for the past two years while representing his site in Wolfsburg. He serves as the interface between development and production planning. “Here I make sure that the products become well integrated into the line in Chattanooga.”

Noah was one of the first employees in Chattanooga. He started out as a trainer in the Lean Center, before working as a foreman in engine pre-assembly for the Passat. Manufacturing in Tennessee began with that model. “Those were exciting times back then. Everything was new, and we spent a lot of long days at the plant,” recalls the 31-year-old. His wife Alicia, who is seated comfortably next to him in the Atlas, remembers, “There was really a lot to do, a good job.” She too has been there since the beginning, when the site was being set up.

Born and raised in ­Chattanooga, Alicia landed a purchasing position in electrics procurement. Noah then switched to Atlas production as a line planner for front-end and rear ­pre-assembly. Chance brought Noah and Alicia together. A friend introduced them at a meeting in the plant and they married soon after, before Noah moved to Wolfsburg. Alicia says, ­“Naturally, I moved to Germany with Noah. We live in Braunschweig and feel very much at home there, especially when there’s the Christmas market. The area has quickly become our second home.”

» It’s really comfortable to drive, and not much can affect its stability. «

An employee enjoying the car from his American homeland − Noah Walker in a gray shirt with Volkswagen logo and Chattanooga lettering behind the wheel of the Atlas.

A piece of their native country is waiting for the couple from Chattanooga about 120 kilometers away “in the middle of the Harz.” Pullman City is a “living Western town” in the Harz mountains, a leisure and theme park based on the life and culture of America’s Wild West. It has plenty of cowboys and Indians and big Wild West shows, which feature free-ranging bison and longhorns being driven down Main Street. A mounted cowgirl dressed in the Stars and Stripes, is there to greet the two Atlas drivers from Chattanooga.

This is our Atlas

» The more I drive the Atlas, the more it feels like a real American. «

Alicia and Noah follow this Miss America to the market place in the Atlas, driving past the Buckaroo’s Warehouse general store, a “gun shop” with weapons and other objects on display, and a shooting gallery, where you can demonstrate your marksmanship with Colts and Winchesters. Miss America ties up her brown steed in front of the saloon. The Atlas couple also park their seven-seater, retrieve two cowboy hats from the trunk, and saunter inside. “It is so cool here!” says Noah as they enter the saloon through swinging doors, as in all the best Westerns.

Alicia and Noah thoroughly enjoy the flair of the Old West town in the Harz. They take a relaxing break in the cool shade of the veranda of a small ranch. “We didn’t know that there was anything like this in Germany,” Alicia says. “It’s great to experience the Wild West here with our wonderful Atlas from Chattanooga.” They love traveling. Soon after the trip to the Harz in the Atlas, they will leave for a summer vacation on a cruise in the Mediterranean. Then it won’t be long before there are Christmas markets again.

Alicia and Noah Walker in good spirits during their Atlas jaunt. The two employees from Chattanooga are having fun testing the SUV on an excursion to the Harz.