Kerssemakers says decisions made in 2014 also determined the company’s global manufacturing footprint, with the North American plant slated to build the next-generation S60 midsize sedan despite its location in a market rapidly skewing toward CUVs and pickup trucks. Half of the U.S.-built S60s will be exported, he says.

Volvo estimates the factory will employ up to 2,000 people over the next decade and up to 4,000 people in the longer term, producing 60,000 vehicles annually to start. The automaker says it will announce a second model for the plant within six months, taking advantage of the facility’s maximum capacity of 120,000 units per year.

An analysis compiled by Frank Hefner, economics professor at the College of Charleston, estimates those 2,000 jobs will lead to the creation of more than 8,000 total jobs, and the plant will contribute some $4.8 billion in total economic impact annually.

Volvo says the plant ultimately will enable it to exceed its U.S. volume target of 100,000 cars per year. The company sold nearly 83,000 cars and CUVs in the U.S. in 2016, up 18.1%. Volvo sold 534,000 units globally for the year, up 6.2%.

Volvo says its first-ever U.S. plant is on track to open on schedule under the guidance of Katarina Fjording, vice president-purchasing and manufacturing for the Americas. Sweden native Fjording has worked for Volvo since 1989, with her most recent assignment overseeing development of three car factories and an engine plant in China.

The 2.3 million-sq.-ft. (213,677-sq.-m) South Carolina plant, dubbed “Project Thor,” is her first from the ground up, however.

Despite initial delays due to severe flooding and hurricanes, “We are on track with construction,” Fjording assures. The factory’s three major buildings – body assembly, paint and final assembly – each are fully enclosed and weathertight. Installation of line equipment and robots began in March and is expected to be completed by late summer.

During a tour of the facilities, Fjording and Ake Larsson, director of construction and part of a 12-person team managing the project, show off huge, gleaming new buildings painted in Volvo’s trademark shades of blue, gray and white.

Inside, rows of robots, assembly-line equipment, piping and other hardware stand ready for installation. Paint booths are in place, as are enclosed overhead viaducts that will convey assembled bodies from building to building along the production line.

Plans call for little on-site warehousing; instead, most parts will arrive in transport containers that will serve as storage until the parts are needed. About half of the completed vehicles will be transported to the U.S. market on railcars, via a new dedicated railyard adjacent to the plant, with the remainder loaded on trucks bound for the Port of Charleston and global export.

bgritzinger@wardsauto.com @bobgritzinger