Volvo Cars Shuts Plant With Hurricane Florence Forcing Evacuations

Hurricane Florence
A Volvo S60 luxury sedan at the plant outside Charleston. (Volvo Cars)

Volvo Car Group will temporarily idle its new car factory in South Carolina after Hurricane Florence spurred orders to evacuate areas in the path of the Category 4 storm.

“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,” Volvo spokeswoman Stephanie Mangini said in an e-mail. The factory is Chinese-owned Volvo’s first in the United States and recently began cranking out S60 mid-size sedans.

Hurricane Florence’s top winds hit 130 mph Sept. 10 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. The storm is destined for landfall late Sept. 13 or early Sept. 14 between Charleston, S.C., and Norfolk, Va.

The Carolinas are home to BMW AG’s biggest assembly plant in the world, as well as factories where Daimler AG units build Mercedes-Benz vans, Freightliner trucks and Thomas Built buses. Representatives for the German manufacturers said they are monitoring the situation.

The two states 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.

Volvo, the Swedish carmaker owned by China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co., opened its first North American assembly plant earlier this year just north of Charleston. CEO Hakan Samuelsson said earlier Sept. 10 that the company was delaying plans for a share sale as early as this fall, citing intensifying global trade tensions.

With assistance by Keith Naughton