By on July 21, 2020

Is there a U.S. assembly plant that’s not currently producing a utility vehicle that doesn’t need one? Perhaps, but that doesn’t describe Volvo Cars’ Ridgeville, South Carolina facility, which builds the new-for-2019 S60 sedan.

A still-shiny plant situated near Charleston’s busy harbor that only opened a year prior to the S60’s launch, the facility shuttered itself in late March as the coronavirus swept into North America, reopening in early May before going idle again a month later. Volvo Cars’ boss aims to get production underway again soon, but there’s a problem.

“First is the disturbances in the supply of parts from Mexico. But it also a supply-and-demand issue for the S60. There is definitely is a market trend toward SUVs,” CEO Hakan Samuelsson told Automotive News Europe this week.

The aim is to get the facility up and running within “some” weeks, Samuelsson said, but issues remain in the Mexico-U.S. supply chain. The country to the south has curbed manufacturing output to some degree in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19 infections. In the state of Chihuahua, employee attendance is limited to just 50 percent of the normal complement — spelling headaches for certain domestic manufacturers.

Yet even if parts flow in from Mexico like they once used to, customers aren’t flowing into Volvo dealerships in search of a new sedan. U.S. customers purchased 17,526 S60s in 2019, but the first half of 2020 saw Volvo unload just 4,799 units. That’s a 43-percent decrease from the same period a year earlier.

While the pandemic can take responsibility for much of the slide, the public’s decreasing enthusiasm for any and all sedans can’t be ruled out as a causal factor. It’s not like inventory has entirely dried up. Luckily, the lonely S60 won’t have to remain in isolation for much longer.

“Charleston really needs an SUV, which we are planning to introduce in the second step in 2022 with the XC90,” Samuelsson said. “Then the factory will be fully utilized.”

The brand’s best-selling model by a significant margin, the XC90 saw its first-half sales drop only 13.3 percent, with June volume down barely half a percent. Worldwide, sedans sales account for 14 percent of Volvo’s sales volume, with SUVs gobbling up 69 percent of the pie.

[Images: Volvo Cars]

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11 Comments on “On Again, Off Again: Volvo Aims to Get South Carolina Plant Back in Gear, but Something’s Missing...”

  • avatar

    My opinion: Less China future means better future.

    • 0 avatar

      Definitely agree. And Volvo Sweden is getting worried about a deeper merger with Geely. Too bad it wasn’t in their control to become independent.

      Ford could have had a premium Euro brand to (somewhat) compete with Audi/Merc/BMW if they had just put the money into Volvo and let them do their thing, like Geely did. So dumb. Volvo even opened a friggin U.S. plant under Geely… They’re trying to do all the right things, but there’s too much political baggage to overcome.

      At the same time, if the Volvo bashing is going to continue I want to see American auto companies leave China. American and German companies and their joint ventures in China pump significant money into the Chinese economy. Singling out Volvo is a drop in the bucket.

      VW China Sales 2019: 4.23 Million
      GM China Sales 2019: 3.09 Million
      Ford China Sales 2019: 500k

  • avatar

    Beautiful vehicle but living in Florida I like to see standard AC vents for the back seat passengers on anything bigger than a Corolla and actually even on a Corolla. We need AC in most of the 50 states but definitely not seat warmers and heated steering wheel in some states. I won’t consider any decent size sedan unless it has standard rear AC vents. Not part of a package as in the Volvo S60.

    • 0 avatar

      What?!? Absolutely agree with you… rear AC vents are mandatory on anything Corolla and up, and anything “premium.” Definite dealbreaker… and I live in upstate NY.

      Where is the Volvo V60 produced? I’d buy that one in a heartbeat. T5 FWD should do for me. My indie mechanic gives me Volvos when I drop my car, and I hate the way the XC thingies ride and drive. But maybe the courtesy cars I get are just old and tired?

      • 0 avatar

        Nick, I’ve been looking at slightly used S60s and none of them have AC vents for the rear passengers. Initially I thought they aren’t offered at all. I went to Volvo’s website and I found out that it is possible but part of a package. Lately, this is becoming a bit of an obsession for me and I would not purchase any vehicle without it. Most of the time, “small” cars like Civic, Corolla, VW Jetta don’t even offer it as an option. You have to step up to their bigger cousins. VW Jetta isn’t really a small car anymore. Let’s tone down the heated steering wheel and let’s get some rear AC.

    • 0 avatar

      I have a 2020 S60 Momentum (base trim). It has rear vents, but the vents are located on the B pillar, which honestly is a superior location anyways (because they blow on you, not your knees) and where all rear AC vents should at minimum be. Now the higher trims levels (R design and Inscription) have both the B pillar vents and rear center console vents, although I believe that was optional or not available for the 2019 R-design but changed for 2020.

      Not sure what the rear vent situation on the last gen S60 was.

    • 0 avatar

      In Sweden you do not need AC. None of my cars had AC when I lived in Moscow region. What actually we appreciated was massive heater.

  • avatar
    e46 Touring

    Volvos have had rear passenger vents mounted on the B pillar for years now.Nothing has changed with the latest S60.

    • 0 avatar

      E46, I did not know about the B pillar AC vents. That is better than nothing, that’s for sure. I just remember seeing in the used car adds that some 2019s have the central console capped with an ugly piece of plastic while on some ( very rare) they have AC vents and two USB ports I believe.

  • avatar

    Southern California resident here, and I echo the sentiments about rear A/C vents. Looking at used S60 last year, those B pillar vents were part of a package. I don’t recall if they were even available on the lowest S60 trim. Try driving a dark grey or black Volvo to Palm Springs this weekend when it is 105 to 110 degrees, and then decide if rear A/C is a luxury or a necessity.

  • avatar

    S60 US sales had risen by 148% from 2018 to 2019, bucking the long term sedan decline. But now having trouble with Covid on the sales floor and with supplies from Mexico, plus the declining sedan market. S60 sales should recover next year to an acceptable level, but will probably never be on fire like Volvo’s SUVs.

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