Wabco North Charleston

Wabco Holdings Inc. has opened a $20 million manufacturing plant in North Charleston that makes advanced, single-piston disc brakes for trucks and commercial vehicles. File/Provided

Wabco Holdings Inc. on Wednesday marked the opening of a $20 million manufacturing campus in North Charleston that will be the only North American site to build an advanced, single-piston disc brake for trucks and other commercial vehicles.

"We are excited to expand our manufacturing capabilities in the U.S. to be closer to our customers in the region," said Jacques Esculier, the Belgium-based company's chairman and CEO. Esculier said the brakes manufactured in North Charleston "demonstrate our commitment to advancing commercial vehicle safety and shaping the future of the transportation industry."

A similar plant located in Mannheim, Germany, supplies the disc brakes to the European market.

Wabco's disc brakes use 25 percent fewer parts and help trucks stop 10 percent faster than current drum brakes, but only 20 percent of trucks in the U.S. market are equipped with the advanced technology. Jon Morrison, the company's Americas president, said that offers an opportunity for future growth. About 10 percent of the 145,000-square-foot site located on Patriot Boulevard is available for expansion.

Currently, the plant produces about 200,000 disc brakes each year that are shipped to vehicle manufacturers in the U.S. and Mexico. Wabco also makes air compressors at the North Charleston facility under a joint venture with diesel engine maker Cummins.

Wabco, which began operations in the Charleston area in 1998, moved to Patriot Boulevard from an older manufacturing facility on Leeds Avenue that had less than half the space of the new facility. The company now employs 230 workers and distributes its products from the new location.

We're starting a weekly newsletter about the business stories that are shaping Charleston and South Carolina. Get ahead with us - it's free.

Most of its customers are large truck manufacturers, such as Daimler and Volvo.

The state Coordinating Council for Economic Development provided a $250,000 grant to Dorchester County to help pay for property improvements, and Wabco can qualify for tax credits based on the number of jobs it creates. The county also will charge the company a set fee instead of property taxes, with some of that money used to pay for infrastructure at the plant.

Wabco was founded in the United States in 1869 as Westinghouse Air Brake Co., and it pioneered the first anti-lock braking system for commercial vehicles in 1981. Its U.S. headquarters are in Rochester Hills, Mich.

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