Volvo Cars started building S60 sedans this month in Berkeley County and has already said the XC90 SUV will join the plant's production line by 2021.
Could a third vehicle also be in the mix for Volvo's $1.1 billion manufacturing campus off Interstate 26 near Ridgeville?
The Swedish automaker hinted at that possibility in an Aug. 16 letter it sent to the U.S. Trade Representative seeking an exemption from tariffs for its mid-size XC60 SUV currently built in China and sent to the United States.
Katherine Yehl, Volvo's vice president of government affairs, cited the new Berkeley County plant in the letter as an example of the automaker's strong ties to the United States. American consumers account for 14 percent of Volvo's global sales, she wrote, second only to China. And Volvo will employ nearly 2,000 people in three states by the end of this year.
Yehl told the trade office that Volvo is initially focusing its U.S. efforts on production of the S60.
Then she added: "But over time, given our global manufacturing footprint, we could also anticipate production of the XC60 in the U.S. as well."
The key word, in this case, being "could."
When asked last week about possible U.S. production of the XC60, Volvo spokeswoman Stephanie Mangini said: "The plan today for the Ridgeville plant is to build the S60 mid-size sedan, and the next-generation XC90 SUV around 2021. There are no definitive plans to build the XC60."
Yehl's letter was in support of a similar request for tariff exclusions by General Motors for its Buick Envision. General Motors has asked the trade office to exclude up to 40,000 of its Envisions from the 25 percent tariff on Chinese-made vehicles imposed by President Donald Trump. Volvo is asking for an unlimited number of mid-size SUVs to be excluded from the tariff.
The trade office has not taken action on the requests by Volvo and General Motors.
Volvo, based in Sweden, is owned by China's Geely Holding Group.
No crane pain
Potential tariffs that were worrying some maritime industry leaders have been taken off the table by the Trump Administration.
The American Association of Port Authorities had been lobbying trade officials to exclude Chinese-made cranes from a list of goods subject to a 25 percent tariff. The cranes are used to move cargo to and from big container ships and the association said an extra import tax could impact expansion plans for ports on the East and Gulf coasts.
Those cranes were removed from the list last week, according to an Associated Press report. China is the only country that builds the super-sized machinery.
The State Ports Authority has eight cranes totaling $88.5 million on order from Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries — five for the new Leatherman Terminal in North Charleston, two for the North Charleston Terminal and one for the Wando Welch Terminal in Mount Pleasant.
While crane buyers like the Virginia Port Authority said they were concerned about higher prices, the South Carolina authority — which operates the Port of Charleston — included terms in its purchase contract that limited the agency's exposure.
“Any tariff duty, if applicable, will not increase the cost of the cranes to the port,” SPA spokeswoman Erin Dhand said earlier this month. “The cranes are for a fixed price inclusive of any import taxes and duties.”
Although happy cranes are no longer on the list, the national ports association continues to urge trade officials to eliminate all tariffs.
"Because trade supports everyone, AAPA is encouraging federal policymakers to work swiftly to restore market certainties and forge paths to expand U.S. exports, rather than create new import restrictions," said Kurt Nagle, the association's president and CEO.