As Volvo prepares to build the next-generation S60 compact sedan in Ridgeville, S.C., it hopes that its first U.S. plant persuades its dealers to reinvest in the franchise.
Before the launch of the XC90 crossover this year, Volvo dealers had suffered through a new-product drought. But Lex Kerssemakers, CEO of Volvo Cars of North America, says the Ridgeville plant, scheduled to open in 2018, shows the brand's commitment to the U.S.
The $500 million plant "is the ultimate signal for our retailers that Volvo is investing significantly into the future. It has been a trigger point for them to re-engage, to reinvest in their network, in their dealerships," Kerssemakers said last week in an interview.
He added, "Customers notice that. They see this movement. They see this publicity of new cars com-ing. That drives the levels of enthusiasm of our dealers, but also of our customers and potential new customers."
The plant is expected to produce 50,000 to 60,000 vehicles each year initially but will be capable of churning out 100,000 vehicles at full capacity. Kerssemakers said the S60 is a good model to start with in Ridgeville because it's a high-volume vehicle for Volvo in the U.S. The first South Carolina-built S60s are expected to roll off the line in late 2018.
Volvo says the factory will be the global production home for the S60, which will be exported from the port of Charleston -- along with another model yet to be named.
Diana T. Kurylko contributed to this report.