Breaking News

Volvo Shows Off New US Factory, S60 Sedan, Asks for Openness oy

CHARLESTON, SC — Volvo opened its first US factory to visitors Wednesday and revealed the all-new 2019 Volvo S60 sedan. Then the company gave over the stage to a parade of executives, politicians, and a diplomat who called for freer trade between the US and the world. The $1.1 billion plant sits on 1,600 acres of land, will directly employ 4,000 people, and build 150,000 vehicles a year. About half of production will be exported.
Image used on the post

The third-generation of Volvo’s compact sedan, the S60, will be built only in South Carolina. It will be priced starting at around $37,000 and include Volvo’s suite of safety and driver assists. It will also be the first Volvo offered without a diesel engine, only with gasoline and plug-in hybrid powerplants. US sales start this fall.

But First, South Carolinia’s Call for Open Trade
Most of the speakers cast their remarks to include calls for free trade, in reaction to President’s springtime saber rattling over imports and tariffs. With Volvo manufacturing in the US, it wants access to the most affordable steel and aluminum. Earlier this week, Trump slapped 25 percent tariffs on steel and 10 percent on aluminum, on China, Canada, and the European Union.

Karin Olofsdotter, Sweden’s ambassador to the US, said, “Europe and the US are the best of friends in the world and should really be working together to solve the world’s problems. We should be forming bonds that make us stronger, not pushing us apart.” In the late 1800s, she noted, “a quarter of our [Sweden’s] population left for America and helped build your country.” Today, Sweden has a population of just 10 million, but the country is the 15th largest investor in the US.

Looking to her left at special guest Nikki Haley, the ex-South Carolina governor who lured Volvo to South Carolina in 2015 and now is US Ambassador to the United Nations, Olofsdotter said, “We are worried about real issues. The aluminum and steel tariffs, obviously. But we are extremely worried about car tariffs.” In 2015, Haley secured Volvo’s commitment to build the plant. Volvo since 2010 has been owned by Geely Holding Group, a Chinese multinational automaker. China is Volvo’s top market, buying 20 percent of Volvo production, followed by the US with 14 percent. With only Charleston building the S60, the US will soon be exporting cars to China.

The day before, President Trump, who appointed her to the UN post, had said, “Trade wars aren’t so bad. … The trade war hurts them [other countries], not us.” South Carolina begged to differ.

Without Open Trade, ‘Can We Employ 2,000 Extra People?’
Gov. Henry McMaster, a staunchly conservative Republican and the first major politician in the state to endorse Trump’s candidacy, politely took issue with Trump’s tariff plans and said South Carolina thrives on international trade. Auto manufacturing is estimated to be a $30 billion business in the Palmetto State — primarily BMW, along with a Mercedes-Benz van factory in the Charleston suburbs. And now Volvo.

Volvo’s CEO Hakan Samuelsson said trade wars could cap employment at the new factory, which is set to produce the first car in mid-August. “We are creating 4,000 jobs, and the idea was that half of the production would be exported,” Samuelsson said Thursday. “Basically, if we cannot trade freely, of course, then you can question, can we really employ the 2,000 extra people?” The plant by 2021, with two models produced, the S60 sedan and the next-generation XC90 midsize SUV, would employ 4,000 total.

Wages are considered good for the South. Ads seeking Volvo assembly line workers, or associates, promise an hourly wage of $18.50 an hour, plus benefits, or about $37,000 yearly plus overtime. As with other plants in the South, there are no unions. In Tennessee, workers at Volkswagen turned down a United Auto Workers organizing drive, and last year more than 60 percent of workers at Nissan voted against unions.

No comments