Surging exports a good sign for Volvo’s U.S. site

Swedish automaker Volvo is building its first U.S. manufacturing plant near Ridgeville in Berkeley County.

The number of cars Volvo exports from its Gothenburg, Sweden, factory to the U.S. and other parts of the world has doubled over the past year. And that bodes well for Berkeley County.

Between June 2015 and May of this year, roughly 170,000 Volvo cars were sent out through Gothenburg’s port. it’s an indication of the growing popularity of the carmaker’s brand, both in America and elsewhere.

“Volvo has produced a highly successful range of models at the Torslanda plant in recent years,” Claes Sundmark, a vice president at the port, told Automotive Logistics magazine. Torslanda is a district within Gothenburg. Sundmark said “delivery to virtually every market takes place via the port in Gothenburg nowadays.”

Volvo’s resurgence in the global automotive market is taking place while the carmaker is buildings its first U.S. manufacturing plant near Ridgeville in Berkeley County. The facility will make 100,000 cars a year — including a newly designed S60 sedan — with the first vehicle set to roll off the production line in late 2018.

Through June, Volvo has sold 36,520 cars in America — a 24.4 percent increase over the same period a year ago. The XC90 SUV, made in Gothenburg and the first vehicle produced under Volvo’s new manufacturing platform, accounts for nearly 44 percent of U.S. sales.

Globally, Volvo sales have reached record levels, with 256,563 cars delivered during the first half of 2016 — 10.5 percent better than the year-ago period.

China is Volvo’s biggest market, with 40,688 cars sold so far this year. European countries have accounted for 138,851 sales through the first six months of 2016.

In the U.S., Volvo imports most of its cars through the Port of Newark, N.J., and Port Huenene in Los Angeles. The carmaker also has limited imports at ports in Brunswick Ga., and Baltimore.

Once the Berkeley County plant is up and running, Volvo will export its U.S.-made cars through the Port of Charleston. Volvo estimates up to 70 percent of the cars built in America will be exported to foreign countries.

Boeing Co. said it delivered 199 commercial aircraft during the second quarter of 2016, bringing the year-to-date total to 375 — six fewer than the same period a year ago.

Deliveries of the 787 Dreamliner, made at Boeing’s North Charleston campus and in Everett, Wash., totaled 38 during the second quarter and 68 so far this year. That’s slightly ahead of the 64 Dreamliner deliveries during the first six months of 2015 and puts Boeing on pace to at least match last year’s delivery mark of 135 Dreamliners.

Uresh Sheth, author of the All Things 787 website, which tracks Dreamliner production, said Boeing is on track to make its 500th Dreamliner delivery since the program’s inception at some point in December.

“Everything has to go right, which means that there can’t be any delays from suppliers or any other production or testing hiccups,” Sheth said. “Also, the customer has to be ready to take delivery by December 31st and any financing has to be in place.”

If that milestone delivery takes place, odds are good that it will be a Dreamliner made in North Charleston. Of the eight tentative deliveries scheduled for December, North Charleston-produced Dreamliners make up five.

On the orders side, Boeing has 288 net orders for commercial airplanes through July 5, including 13 net orders for Dreamliners.

Belimed Inc., a company that makes cleaning and sterile processing systems for the health care and life sciences industries, plans to move to the Atlas Commerce Center in North Charleston, the company said last week.

The company’s move into a 22,500-square-foot leased space is part of its expansion plans as business ramps up in the U.S., according to Joseph McDonald, Belimed’s president. Belimed had been located on Charleston Regional Parkway in Charleston.

Belimed is a subsidiary of Switzerland-based holding company Metall Zug Group.

Atlas Commerce Center, located within Palmetto Commerce Park, is comprised of two 67,500-square-foot dock warehouse buildings.

“As a leader in its field with locations worldwide, they were a natural fit for the project.” said Warren Zinn, developer of Atlas Commerce Center.

Ronnie Cooper, owner of BW Mitchum Trucking of Charleston, has been named chairman of the board of directors for the South Carolina Trucking Association, the trade group said. Cooper’s term will run during the 2016-17 fiscal year.

“Ronnie is a native of the area, grew up in trucking, knows the port and the stakeholders,” said Rick Todd, the association’s president and CEO. “He will be very effective as we advocate for better government services, including infrastructure improvements, developing truck technicians and drivers, and registration and compliance made easier.”

Cooper succeeds Jerry Smith, general manager at Associated Petroleum Carriers in Spartanburg.

Keith Johnson of H&J Trucking in Charleston has been named vice chairman.

Reach David Wren at 843-937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_