Volvo narrows choices for U.S. plant to South Carolina, second state: sources

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 17, 2015 12:14 PM

DETROIT (Reuters) - Volvo Cars is weighing a site in South Carolina against another southern state as it prepares to invest $500 million in its first U.S. plant, people with knowledge of the matter said on Friday.

The Swedish carmaker has reduced its shortlist to two potential locations, including Berkeley County, South Carolina, said the sources, who asked not to be identified.

Volvo U.S. spokesman Jim Nichols said the process is underway and the automaker hopes to make a decision "in the next few weeks."

The sources did not give further details or identify the second state in the running.

But South Carolina economic development officials have filed a permit application for an unidentified company to build a manufacturing plant in Berkeley County that would initially create 2,000 jobs, potentially doubling to 4,000 within 10 years.

The South Carolina officials did not identify the company in its documents, using only the name "Project Soter." Soter is the spirit of safety in Greek mythology and Volvo's cars have a long-standing reputation for safety.

The Georgia Department of Economic Development declined to comment on whether that state was in the running for the Volvo plant, and officials with the Alabama Department of Commerce could not immediately be reached.

The automaker, which is owned by China's Geely 0175.HKGEELY.UL, said the plant, with annual production capacity close to 120,000 vehicles a year, will serve export markets as well as the United States. Volvo is aiming for U.S. sales of 100,000 vehicles, compared with just over 56,000 last year.

Volvo Cars said last month it was in advanced talks with several U.S. states. CEO Hakan Samuelsson told Reuters a North American plant was "the last piece in establishing our global footprint."

Samuelsson said the final choice for the plant's location would reflect availability and cost of skilled workers, and logistics, including the export of finished cars.

(Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit, Harriett McLeod in Charleston, South Carolina, and Daniel Dickson in Stockholm; Editing by Dan Grebler)