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Staff file photo / Volkswagen employees work around vehicles moving down the assembly line at the Chattanooga assembly plant.

Volkswagen's Chattanooga assembly plant is a key hub in the automaker's American and worldwide electric vehicle offensive, according to the company.

The carmaker, in a presentation by top officials Thursday in Germany, showed the Chattanooga production site that will build the battery-powered ID.4 SUV by 2022 as one of the linchpins in making the crossover VW's first global electric vehicle.

By the end of 2025, a half million ID.4 SUVs are slated to roll off assembly lines in Chattanooga along with VW plants in Germany and China, the company said.

The presentation by Volkswagen brand CEO Ralf Brandstatter and board member for e-mobility Thomas Ulbrich termed the compact SUV "a game-changer" in the company's electric vehicle efforts.

Next Wednesday, the German automaker is to reveal the ID.4 globally in an online event.

VW officials on Thursday called the electric SUV the first such vehicle for the volume market, citing strong growth for crossovers. Already, every third vehicle sold by the Volkswagen Group, which includes the VW brand as well as Audi, Porsche and others, is an SUV.

"SUVs are the most popular vehicle segment in the USA and China," the presentation said. "Market shares in Europe and Germany are also increasing [and] demand for compact SUVs in particular is booming."

By 2022, VW will have five plants worldwide making the ID.4. The company last year started an $800 million expansion of the Chattanooga plant for electric vehicle production, and it's the only VW plant in North and South America slated to make the EV by 2022.

Tom du Plessis, who is CEO of VW's Chattanooga operations, said this summer that the expansion is "on plan" to enlarge the existing body shop and raise a new building where battery pack assembly will take place.

While production of the Passat sedan and Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport SUVs stopped at the plant for about two months due to the coronavirus pandemic, construction didn't cease on the expansion project, the company said.

Volkswagen plans to hire about 150 production employees in Chattanooga by year's end as it meets demand for assembly of its existing vehicles and readies for building an electric SUV.

"Our goal is to extend at least 10 job offers every week for the remainder of the year," said du Plessis. Also, VW contractor Aerotek has unveiled plans to bring on 175 employees.

Currently, the automaker has 3,800 workers in Chattanooga.

Volkswagen said that with the ID.4, its effort to take e-mobility to the fast-growing SUV market also will contribute to fighting climate change.

"The ID.4 takes climate-neutral mobility to the SUV segment," according to VW.

Also Thursday, the automaker revealed the name of a new compact SUV that Volkswagen has designed specifically for the North American market, calling it the Taos.

The name of the SUV, which will be slotted just below the Tiguan crossover, embodies the town of Taos, New Mexico, said Hein Schafer, Volkswagen of America's senior vice president for product marketing and strategy.

"It's a small city that offers big things — from outdoor adventure to arts and design and great cuisine," he said in a statement.

Car and Driver said the Taos is expected to look similar to its larger sibling, the Tiguan, which is built in Mexico.

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

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