Mercedes, Volvo idle U.S. factories

Photo credit: Reuters

UPDATED: 9/11/18 12:22 pm ET - adds BMW statement

Daimler AG and Volvo Car Group are suspending operations at their new plants in South Carolina after Hurricane Florence prompted orders to evacuate areas in the path of the Category 4 storm. 

“Mercedes-Benz Vans Charleston plant has suspended operations for September 11 until further notice in anticipation of potential impacts from Hurricane Florence,” the company said in a statement. “We urge our team members, their families and all those in the path of Hurricane Florence to take this time to prepare and stay safe during the storm.”

Daimler just opened the factory in north Charleston last week, and it’s been contracted to produce 20,000 Sprinter vans for Amazon.com Inc.’s package-delivery service. Volvo Car Group, the Swedish carmaker owned by China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co., said Monday it idled operations at its new plant near Charleston. The factory is its first in the U.S. and makes S60 mid-size sedans.

For ongoing storm coverage from Reuters, click here

“We have decided to shut down our plant tomorrow in light of the evacuation order that’s now in place for Charleston, Dorchester and Berkeley counties,” Stephanie Mangini, a Volvo spokeswoman, said in an email on Monday.

Hurricane Florence’s top winds hit 130 miles per hour Monday to become a storm one step below the most severe level. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster ordered evacuations of the state’s entire coastline, including the area around Volvo’s factory. 

"Hurricane Florence will lash the Carolinas beginning late Thursday as an intense Category 4 hurricane with life-threatening storm surge, destructive winds and massive inland rainfall flooding in one of the strongest strikes on record for this part of the East Coast," The Weather Channel reported on Tuesday

Further inland, Spartanburg, S.C., also is home to BMW AG’s biggest assembly plant in the world. A BMW spokesman said in an email that the automaker does not expect to idle production, but would be dealing with logistics issues as the hurricane approaches. 

"The BMW Logistics teams have a lot of experience dealing with hurricanes," the email said. "Right now, they’re working to get vehicles at the port loaded on board ships and out to sea, away from the hurricane’s path. If necessary, fully loaded rail cars headed to Charleston can be diverted to secure holding areas until the hurricane passes. Everything depends on the ultimate path of the storm."

The Carolinas also are a major hub for tire making. Michelin, which has 14 factories and three retreading facilities in the Carolinas, is watching forecasts closely, spokesman Eric Bruner said. A spokeswoman for Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. didn’t immediately comment.

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