It took eight months to hammer out the logistics, but Rick Hendrick and Anders Gustafsson met each other for the first time June 18 at a party for the grand opening of Hendrick Volvo Cars of Charleston, the nearest dealership to Volvo's $500 million-plus automotive assembly plant in Ridgeville.

The modern showroom, service center and parts department started in business October 2017 at 1464 Savannah Highway in Charleston. At what was dubbed a "celebration" last week, employees from the host of Hendrick Automotive dealerships in the Lowcountry posed for photos in front of the Volvo car store, and Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg cut the ribbon.

Gustafsson, senior vice president of Volvo Americas, was in the Charleston area for the official launch two days later of the Berkeley County auto plant, to manufacture the new S60 sedan and in time also the XC90 SUV. Total investment is expected to reach $1 billion, with 3,000 employees projected to work there.

Hendrick and Gustafsson also talked to local media about the new Hendrick Volvo Cars of Charleston operation, which replaced a much smaller building a few hundred yards away that was torn down in early June.

In a brief interview, Gustafsson said dealerships such as the modern, spic-n-span Volvo outlet in Charleston are important because that's where people see and get "related to products. Of course it's great," he said.

Volvo's top executive in North America said the new plant opens in a time of major change when a model launched or revamped three years ago "is going to be our oldest car."

Employees will be testing new models at the Ridgeville plant for a few months before the first production vehicles roll out by the early fall. "We have a lot of work to do," he said. XC90s will begin coming off the assembly line in two years. Gustafsson called Volvo's best-selling SUV "a very popular car."

Meeting with Hendrick for the first time, Gustafsson described the Charlotte-based dealership magnate as a "very very successful person."

Hendrick, too, was complimentary about Volvo. The new plant joins BMW in the Upstate and the Mercedes-Benz Vans factory in Ladson as car manufacturing plants in the state. "What we have is a luxury car built down the street. That's cool," he said.

The dealer's stable of car stores in metro Charleston will be seeing additional changes, he said. The next move involves a new BMW showroom, service and parts center being constructed on the site of the demolished former Volvo outlet, which is closer to Savannah Highway that the present, set-back BMW outlet, Hendrick said.

Separately, Hendrick Volvo Cars of Charleston was one of 30 dealerships nationwide, and the only one in South Carolina, to be named a 2017 Volvo Excellence Award winner. Volvo Cars USA LLC took out a full-page ad in the May 31 edition of Automotive News announcing the top picks. Rick Hendrick was listed as owner.

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