Gov. Nikki Haley dropped by the Daimler Vans Manufacturing factory for the first time Friday, a month after the company announced plans to invest $4.6 million and create about 60 new jobs.
While production declined for a time because of the recession, demand for the German automaker’s Sprinter utility vehidles has jumped recently, creating a favorable climate for the expansion, said Marco Wirtz, president and CEO of the local operation.
“My team and I really appreciate the visit and the support of the state, the City of North Charleston and Charleston County over the last seven years,” Wirtz said. “It’s a great relationship between all involved parties.”
Daimler Vans currently employs about 123 workers.
Its 460,000-square-foot plant produces Sprinters that are sold across North America by Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz and Freightliner brands. Parts are imported from Germany and reassembled in North Charleston because a trade tax makes it too expensive to import them in one piece.
Last year, the factory assembled 22,000 of the popular boxy vehicles.
Roughly 2,000 Sprinters are stored in the Charleston area, the largest supply in the United States, Wirtz said.
“If you see a Sprinter van in Hawaii, you know it came from this spot,” he said.
Company officials brought Haley up to speed with its operations and goals. While touring the plant, she said she was struck by the company’s precision and its 99.9 percent recycling rate.
“Most German manufacturers are organized by nature, but coming into this facility you see how efficient it is from the very beginning to the very end,” Haley said.
Daimler began making he vans in North Charleston in 2005.
In announcing its expansion, it said it will make improvements to the building and changes to its assembly line on Palmetto Commerce Parkway, between Ladson and Ashley Phosphate roads.
The company expects to complete the project by 2018.
Wirtz said the company would bring in two German employees, but that his primary goal is to partner with the state’s technical college system to hire local workers.
Haley assured the executives that South Carolina stands ready to help with job training and other needs.
“Your job should be easy,” Haley said. “If you have any problems, I’ll give you my cell number. Call me, and we’ll work with you to do whatever you need.”
Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906, follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail.