Volvo isn't the only company with expansion plans in the Southeast.
Western Star Trucks Inc. has a $26 million assembly plant under construction near Charleston, S.C., where it plans to begin producing Class 8 trucks late this summer.
Western Star, based in Kelowna, British Columbia, has its roots in the logging industry and continues to focus on owner/operators and small fleets. But like other heavy-truck builders, the strong market has overwhelmed its ability to deliver enough vehicles.
Last year, the company sold 6,600 trucks in the United States and Canada. But it also has a backlog of just as many orders, President Bob Enright said. Buyers now are being told to wait until the first quarter of 2000 to take delivery.
Western Star boosted the daily production rate at its Kelowna plant to 30 units last week. Just 18 months ago, its daily output was in the mid-teens. By the end of the year, Western Star plans to build 20 trucks a day at the South Carolina plant. So far, no timetable has been set for reaching full daily capacity of 45 units, Enright said.
The Western Star plant in South Carolina will employ 200 workers and will feature new assembly and supply techniques, Enright promises. One idea on the drawing board: a 'residence hall' for suppliers. It would be a cooperatively managed operation where a half-dozen parts makers share space under one roof.
Enright said the company has been affected by crashing markets in Asia Pacific - particularly logging in Indonesia - but has opened promising beachheads in Latin America.
In North America, Western Star is bullish. A strong economy and the company's expanded capacity could push sales to the 10,000-unit mark in 1999.
Said Enright: 'We could have sold that many last year if we could have built them.'