On Again, Off Again: Volvo Aims to Get South Carolina Plant Back in Gear, but Something's Missing

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
on again off again volvo aims to get south carolina plant back in gear but

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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  • Gasser Gasser on Jul 21, 2020

    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.

  • Tostik Tostik on Jul 23, 2020

    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.

  • Alan The Prado shouldn't have the Landcruiser name attached. It isn't a Landcruiser as much as a Tacoma or 4 Runner or a FJ Cruiser. Toyota have used the Landcruiser name as a marketing exercise for years. In Australia the RAV4 even had Landcruiser attached years ago! The Toyota Landcruiser is the Landcruiser, not a tarted up Tacoma wagon.Here a GX Prado cost about $61k before on roads, this is about $41k USD. This is a 2.8 diesel 4x4 with all the off road tricky stuff, plus AC, power windows, etc. I'm wondering if Toyota will perform the Nissan Armada treatment on it and debase the Prado. The Patrol here is actually as capable and possibly more capable than the Landcruiser off road (according to some reviews). The Armada was 'muricanised and the off road ability was reduced a lot. Who ever heard of a 2 wheel drive Patrol.Does the US need the Prado? Why not. Another option to choose from built by Toyota that is overpriced and uses old tech.My sister had a Prado Grande, I didn't think much of it. It was narrow inside and not that comfortable. Her Grand Cherokee was more comfortable and now her Toureg is even more comfortable, but you can still feel the road in the seat of your pants and ears.
  • Jeffrey No tis vehicle doen't need to come to America. The market if flooded in this segment what we need are fun affordable vehicles.
  • Nrd515 I don't really see the point of annual inspections, especially when the car is under 3 years (warranty) old. Inspections should be safety related, ONLY, none of the nonsensical CA ARB rules that end up being something like, "Your air intake doesn't have an ARB sticker on it, so you have to remove it and buy one just like it that does have the ARB sticker on it!". If the car or whatever isn't puking smoke out of it, and it doesn't make your eyes water, like an old Chevy Bel-Air I was behind on Wed did, it's fine. I was stuck in traffic behind that old car, and wow, the gasoline smell was super potent. It was in nice shape, but man, it was choking me. I was amused by the 80 something old guy driving it, he even had a hat with a feather in it, THE sign of someone you don't want to be driving anywhere near you.
  • Lou_BC "15mpg EPA" The 2023 ZR2 Colorado is supposed to be 16 mpg
  • ToolGuy "The more aerodynamic, organic shape of the Mark VIII meant ride height was slightly lower than before at 53.6 inches, over 54.2” for the Mark VII."• I am not sure that ride height means what you think it means.Elaboration: There is some possible disagreement about what "ride height" refers to. Some say ground clearance, some say H point (without calling it that), some say something else. But none of those people would use a number of over 4 feet for a stock Mark anything.Then you go on to use it correctly ("A notable advancement in the Mark VIII’s suspension was programming to lower the ride height slightly at high speeds, which assisted fuel economy via improved aerodynamics.") so what do I know. Plus, I ended a sentence with a preposition. 🙂