Even so, the strategy carries risk if there is a downturn in the local market or a pullback in demand, given the competitive pressure as vehicle models age, said Jeff Schuster, LMC's president of global forecasting. Volvo executives say the Ridgeville plant has the capacity to supply overseas markets, if warranted. And initially, the factory will be the global production center for the XC90 BEV.
The large crossovers "will be exported to Europe first and possibly China," Varela said.
But before the first EVs roll off the assembly line, a supply base must be established.
Volvo executives remained tight-lipped last week about the identity of their U.S. battery cell supplier. "We're still finishing the choice of suppliers for batteries for Charleston," Varela said.
However, Volvo also announced last week a joint venture with Swedish battery-maker Northvolt to set up a battery cell factory in Europe.
The company's $700 million investment includes the addition of a second assembly line at the Ridgeville plant and a battery pack assembly plant.
Other tasks are now in order. The work force will require training on BEV technology and battery assembly, said the plant's new boss, David Stenstrom.
"My first priority is getting the current team in shape," he said. "I have six months to do that."
Staffing up the factory floor is another area of focus. Volvo plans to triple the hourly production work force to about 2,500 in the next couple of years.
"I want to be the best plant," Stenstrom said. "If I'm competitive in cost and quality, I hope my boss will give me the next models as well."