Volvo idles new SC plant over Hurricane Florence fears
Volvo's brand-new car plant in Charleston, South Carolina, only held its official opening ceremony in mid-June, and already, it's going idle. The factory, which makes the company's new-for-2019 S60 sedan, is being halted because of Hurricane Florence.
An evacuation order is in place for the Category Four storm in Charleston, Dorchester and Berkley counties, the latter of which is home to the plant. According to reports, Hurricane Florence is expected to make landfall Thursday evening or early Friday. As of this writing, the storm is tracking toward Charleston and Norfolk, VA. Over one million residents have been ordered to evacuate affected areas, with the powerful storm presently packing winds of up to 140 mph.
Volvo estimates that its Charleston plant will eventually be capable of building up to 100,000 cars per year, employing 2,000 people over the next decade -- twice that number over the long term. The Chinese-owned Swedish marque plans to add production of its XC90 flagship SUV to the plant beginning in 2021.
According to Dean Shaw, Volvo's vice president of communications, the Charleston plant only began assembling new S60 models about two weeks ago. Shaw estimates that about 1,000 employees have been working at the plant as production ramps up.
Despite being a brand-new facility, Volvo is already familiar with weather-related stoppages in Charleston: "To be honest, it's something we've done several times over the last year or two with various storms," Case told Roadshow. However, previous incidents all happened during construction of the plant, not while it has been operational.
Of course, Volvo isn't the only automaker's Southern plant that could be affected by Hurricane Florence. Mercedes-Benz's South Charleston Sprinter van factory is actually newer than Volvo's plant, having only opened for business earlier this month.
BMW's Spartanburg, SC plant, which produces the company's popular X3, X4, X5 and X6 SUVs, is also on Florence watch, though its plant is over 200 miles inland. Additionally, numerous auto suppliers have plants and operations in the Carolinas.
It is not immediately clear if Mercedes or BMW plan to idle their plants due to the impending storm â company representatives did not immediately return Roadshow's request for comment.
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