- Associated Press - Friday, September 25, 2015

RIDGEVILLE, S.C. (AP) - Volvo broke ground on its first auto manufacturing plant in North America on Friday and announced that workers at the $500 million plant will build a car still being designed in Sweden.

Volvo North America CEO Lex Kerssemakers said the plant will build the company’s new S-60 sedan as well as another model to be announced later.

“This is the one and only factory where we are going to produce the S-60. Global customers all over the world will drive a car made in this factory,” he said,

The plant is being built off Interstate 26 about 30 miles northwest of Charleston will eventually be capable of making 100,000 cars a year.

Kerssemakers was joined at the site by Gov. Nikki Haley, U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt and other state and local officials. Haley joined Kerssemakers in wielding a silver shovel to turn dirt at one corner of a large tract that has already been cleared of trees.

Company officials said foundation work will begin early next year and the first vehicles are expected to roll off the plant’s production line in 2018.

Kerssemakers said customers will be able to order vehicles and come by the plant to pick them up. That, he said, will benefit the tourism, an $18 billion industry in South Carolina.

“It means South Carolina is going to receive a number of people who are going to enjoy the beautiful landscapes of South Carolina,” he added.

He added the plant, which is expected to employ about 2,000 workers during the next decade, will also have a visitors’ center so people can see how Volvos are designed, built and marketed. He said a small museum showing Volvo’s history and its vision for the future is also planned.

“We have all the plans but first, it’s a small detail, we have to build a factory,” Kerssemakers said.

The governor told reporters later that she recently visited Sweden on a recruiting trip to bring Volvo suppliers to the state as well. Neither the governor nor Hitt would discuss specifics but Haley said “it’s not just about the Volvo plant, it’s going to be about the city surrounding the Volvo plant.”

As part of an incentive package to lure the plant, a new interchange will be built on Interstate 26.

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