None of the redesigned S60 cars built at Volvo's new South Carolina manufacturing plant has been shipped to dealerships, and that has triggered a sales slump for the automaker's entry-level vehicle as buyers wait on the new model.
Volvo Cars reported 1,079 sales of the sedans in September and October — the first two months since production at the new Berkeley County campus off Interstate 26 began. That's down 47 percent from the same period a year ago. Through the first 10 months of this year, S60 sales are down about 38 percent.
Analysts say buyers typically shun an old vehicle model when they know a new one is on the way, and that appears to be the case with the S60. Vehicle purchasing website CarsDirect.com reports the old-model S60 "is easier to find than any other Volvo model."
Volvo spokesman Dean Shaw said the first Charleston-area built S60s will hit showroom floors later this month, but they probably won't be for sale. Instead, they will be demonstration vehicles used to show off the car to prospective buyers.
Volvo hasn't pinpointed a specific date the redesigned S60s will be ready for purchase, Shaw said, but expects to have a better handle on availability after this month. In the meantime, consumers can pre-order them or line up an S60 lease through the Care by Volvo program.
As a whole, Volvo sales in the U.S. continue to surpass 2017 totals.
The automaker reported sales of 7,327 vehicles in October for a 4.6 percent increase over the same month a year ago. Volvo consumers bought 81,256 vehicles through the first 10 months of 2018 — 27 percent better than last year.
The company's trio of sport-utility vehicles — the XC40, XC60 and XC90 — accounts for more than three out of every four sales this year.
"October marks our 10th consecutive month of year-over-year growth for Volvo in the United States," Anders Gustafsson, president and CEO of Volvo Car USA, said in a written statement. "Our award-winning SUV range continues to be a key driver in this growth, with an increase of 33 percent versus last year."
Volvo hasn't disclosed production statistics for the Ridgeville plant, but company officials have said the ramp-up will be gradual through the first few months. The production line eventually will move to 15 cars per hour as the plant aims to build 50,000 vehicles in its first full year, said Javier Varela, senior vice president of manufacturing and logistics.
That number will triple once the XC90 — Volvo's most popular vehicle — is added to a second production line at the South Carolina campus, sometime in 2021. By that time, Volvo hopes to employ about 4,000 workers at the site, although tariffs could affect both hiring levels and the number of cars the company plans to ship and sell overseas.
Volvo has said it wants to export roughly half of the cars it builds. The first batch is expected to leave from the Port of Charleston in the first quarter of next year.