Assembly of the new S60 sedan began a slow ramp-up at Volvo Car's Ghent, Belgium, plant last week.

Volvo scheduled 75 jobs for the first week. Technical Director Jan-Inge Eliasson says 150 cars will be built this week and output will rise to 200 cars next week. Volvo should hit its 1,800 jobs-per-week target in eight weeks.

About 20,000 S60s will be sold this year — including 6,000 in the U.S. and Canada — and Volvo's goal is to sell more than 100,000 units worldwide in 2001. North American sales should reach 35,000 units in 2001, says Volvo Cars of North America Inc. President Mark LaNeve.

The S60 was previewed at simultaneous press conferences in Stockholm and New York last week. It is the third new model from Volvo this year, following introduction of the V70 and Cross Country station wagons. All three are built on Volvo's large car chassis, the same platform used for the flagship S80 sedan.

The S60 originally was planned for introduction in the spring of 1999, but Volvo delayed the car so that it could push the V70 and Cross Country wagons ahead of the new sedan. Lars Erik Lundin, project manager for all large chassis models, says that Volvo derives about 70%-80% of its revenues from wagons, so the V70 and Cross Country took priority.

About 60% of the S60's components are shared with the S80. The S60 will be equipped with a ULEV-certified (Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle) engine from the start. The same engine will be used in the V70 after Sept. 1. The S60's 2.4L 5-cyl. will be offered in naturally aspirated (168 hp), light-pressure turbocharged (197 hp) and high-pressure turbocharged (247 hp) versions.

Transmissions include a Volvo-built 5-speed manual and Aisin Warner 5-speed automatic. Volvo says it is studying whether to sell off its manual transmission operations to an outside supplier.

Mr. Lundin says the S60 requires 2.5 fewer worker hours and is 5%-10% less costly to produce than the S70 it replaces.

Although the 4-door S60 sedan uses the same chassis as the S80, it gets its styling cues from the S70-based C70 coupe.

Mr. LaNeve expects the average transaction price of the S60 in the U.S. to range between $32,000-$33,000. On an as-equipped basis, he says the S60 is $1,000-$1,500 less than the S70. The car bases at $26,500. The automatic transmission adds $1,000. VCNA will start shipping S60s to dealers in October and the official on-sale date is Nov. 1.

Mr. LaNeve expects VCNA to sell 140,000 vehicles in 2000. That includes 33,000 S80s, 35,000 S/V 40s, 14,000 V70 station wagons and 11,000 Cross Country wagons. VCNA will also expects to sell 7,000 C70 coupes and convertibles, 38,000 of the old S/V 70s, and 6,000 new S60s.