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Staff photo by Mike Pare / A Volkswagen ID.4 electric SUV sits outside of Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport.

This story was updated at 4:49 p.m. on Tuesday, April 20, 2021, with more information.

With Volkswagen tooling up to build an electric SUV in Chattanooga, the vehicle was cited Tuesday as "world car of the year" in 2021 for its environmental friendliness and technology.

Volkswagen's ID.4 compact SUV, which is now made in Germany but slated for assembly in Chattanooga next year, was named by a group of more than 90 international automotive journalists from 28 countries, according to the company.

"The first ID. model for the key markets of Europe, China and the U.S. carries our electric offensive around the world," said Ralf Brandstatter, chief executive of Volkswagen passenger cars for the German automaker.

Mark Gillies, acting head of communications for Volkswagen Group of America, said the giant auto company wants to be carbon neutral by 2050.

"To meet those requirements, you have to go electrified in a big way," he said recently.

Gillies also has termed the ID.4 SUV "the highest tech car in the market," noting the vehicle has Level 2 autonomous-ready features.

"We want this to be like buying a consumer electronics item," he said about the battery-powered vehicle.

To be eligible for the award, vehicles must be manufactured in volumes of at least 10,000 units per year, the company said. Also, vehicles must be priced below the luxury-car level in their primary markets and on sale in at least two major markets on two or more continents between May 1, 2020 and May 1, 2021.

The World Car Awards are presented by the automotive journalists who vote on the best innovations on the global market, the company said.

VW is spending $800 million in the Chattanooga factory to add more than 750,000 square feet to produce the more environmentally agreeable EVs. That total includes a 564,000-square-foot expansion to the body shop where workers will build both internal combustion engine vehicles and EVs on the same assembly line.

Tom du Plessis, Volkswagen Chattanooga's chief executive, said 500 new robots are to be installed in the body shop to focus on EVs.

"There's a high level of automation," he said.

At the same time, VW has announced it plans to add 1,000 more jobs in connection with the expansion.

The VW Chattanooga CEO said plans are to start production of the ID.4 in the third and fourth quarters of 2022.

"It will be exactly the same car" as what's undergoing assembly in Germany with some "small internal changes," du Plessis said.

The World Car Awards jury recognized the ID.4 SUV's no-direct emissions and technological advances with its 82 kWh (gross) electric battery, full suite of driver assistance and features such as over-the-air software update, according to VW.

Volkswagen plans to deliver about 150,000 ID.4s worldwide this year, with plans to bring at least one new all-electric model to market globally every year.

This ID.4 win is the fifth "world car of the year" award for Volkswagen AG over the past 17 years of the award's existance. VW last won in 2013 with the Golf. The World Car Awards are administered by a not-for-profit association.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

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