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Volvo opens new U.S. factory, now it is racing a clock

RIDGEVILLE, S.C. — Volvo Cars’ new U.S. automobile plant is usually partially staffed, a public lines hardly stirring. But don’t let a ease dope you: The time is ticking on an desirous devise to make a plant a disdainful tellurian source of Volvo’s many essential nameplate — a XC90 oppulance crossover — in usually 36 months.

It is a uncover of certainty from a once-beleaguered Swedish automaker in a initial U.S. factory, an investment of $1.1 billion. Volvo is targeting fast world-class standing in South Carolina regulating an untested work force, a new U.S. prolongation group and a fledgling North American supply chain.

But Volvo is following a well-worn trail of European automakers BMW and Mercedes-Benz, both of that incited unused U.S. plant startups into tellurian trade machines.

Sole-sourcing a tellurian flagship “increases a stakes utterly a bit,” remarkable Bernard Swiecki, comparison automotive researcher with a Center for Automotive Research.

“You’ve got an all-eggs-in-one-basket situation,” he said.

The plant, 45 miles northwest of Charleston, will start ramping adult prolongation of a redesigned S60 sedan in late August. But in 3 years, a new-generation XC90 will be combined to a mix.

The seven-seat crossover will be built on a second iteration of Volvo’s Scalable Product Architecture platform. SPA 2, as it’s known, eventually will move Level 4 unconstrained pushing capability and other reserve and preference facilities to Volvo vehicles.



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Volvo’s preference to connect tellurian prolongation of a flagship XC90 in an unproven bureau is reduction about chutzpah and some-more about marketplace realities.

“The U.S. is a biggest marketplace for a XC90, so it’s healthy to start there,” Volvo Cars CEO Hakan Samuelsson told Automotive News final week during an eventuality celebrating a plant’s opening. And, he added: “We need a second automobile for a factory.”

The XC90 accounts for only over a third of Volvo’s U.S. sales. Through May, Volvo sole 12,745 XC90s in a U.S., adult 37 percent from a year-earlier period.

“It’s improved to build where we sell a infancy of a volume,” Volvo Cars of North America CEO Anders Gustafsson echoed.

Volvo is on gait this year to sell 600,000 vehicles globally for a initial time in a 91-year history, helped by clever direct in a U.S., where sales surged some-more than 40 percent for a initial 5 months of this year, to 37,754.

Export hub

At full capacity, a new plant will siphon out 150,000 vehicles annually. About half a outlay is targeted for abroad markets.

“We will trade as many cars from this bureau as we will import into a U.S.,” Samuelsson said. “This bureau is a substructure for growth.”

Volvo is following a German indication of building export-oriented automobile plants in a U.S. BMW exported about 70 percent of a 371,284 vehicles it built final year during a plant in Spartanburg, S.C. Mercedes-Benz is Alabama’s tip automobile exporter, shipping about $5 billion in vehicles annually.

Making reward cars in a U.S. for trade is smart, pronounced Michelle Krebs, executive researcher with Autotrader.

“In a stream domestic environment, carrying exports is substantially a good idea, generally for a association owned by a Chinese parent,” Krebs said, referring to Volvo. “The U.S. has turn flattering rival in terms of manufacturing.”

The mission

But scaling prolongation and a supply sequence to hoop tellurian direct for Volvo’s flagship automobile in only 3 years will need near-perfect execution.

“It’s a challenge,” Samuelsson admitted. “We need to be a tellurian company, we need to master that.”

But Volvo executives also contend this isn’t their initial rodeo. The automaker has knowledge building prolongation ability around a world. Volvo has factories in Sweden and Belgium, as good as China, where it has 3 automobile prolongation sitesand where owners Zhejiang Geely Holding Group is headquartered.

“We see huge ability in terms of delivering peculiarity in a new prolongation systems that we have set up,” pronounced Henrik Green, Volvo comparison clamp boss of rd. “I see no stipulations in a clarity of peculiarity or ability in this plant.”


Volvo’s preference to build a U.S. plant in South Carolina will assistance a automaker ramp adult quickly. The state, home to BMW and a Daimler blurb outpost plant, leads a U.S. in exports of finished newcomer vehicles. The public plants have captivated a constellation of tools suppliers — many of them informed European companies — that Volvo can swindle onto. Also not distant divided in Chattanooga, Germany’s Volkswagen Group continues to enhance and attract some-more suppliers into a region.

“The automotive attention loves brief supply chains,” CAR’s Swiecki said. “By locating in an area where there is already an existent buildup of suppliers that can support you, that does give we an advantage.”

The Southeast’s automobile plants also give Volvo certainty it can find learned prolongation talent as it ramps up. Vehicle launches need an gifted hand, Swiecki added.

“It unequivocally helps if you’re starting in a segment where there is already an bargain of manufacturing,” he said, “where you’ve got people that are not strangers to putting something together.”

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