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Employees at Volvo Cars' manufacturing campus in Berkeley County work on the body of an S60 sedan. The vehicle, which is now being shipped to U.S. dealerships, earned a top safety rating from a European consumer group. File/Wade Spees/Staff

The vehicle built at the new Volvo Cars plant near Ridgeville received a top safety rating this week from a European consumer group, just as the vehicles are showing up at U.S. dealerships.

The European New Car Assessment Program, or Euro NCAP, gave the S60 its highest five-star rating for safety, continuing a streak of top ratings for Volvo automobiles that dates to 2009.

"This result proves that Volvo Cars continues to be an industry leader in safety, constantly pushing the envelope in advancing new technology," Malin Ekholm, head of the automaker's safety center, said in a statement.

Among the S60 features noted in the European report is Volvo's "City Safety" package, which includes automatic braking technology that mitigates oncoming collisions. The feature is the only one available for production vehicles that can recognize pedestrians, cyclists and large animals.

The assessment program said this year's testing regime is its toughest, with new and more demanding challenges on emerging safety technologies such as cyclist detection with automatic braking and software that keeps a vehicle from veering outside of its lane.

The rating comes just weeks after Volvo started shipping S60s from its $1.1 billion South Carolina plant off Interstate 26. Dealerships are starting to take deliveries of  the sedans now and exports to foreign countries will begin next year. Volvo is building S60s for the Chinese market at its plant in Deqing.

Two dozen S60s were sold in November, according to the automaker, which reported total U.S. sales of 8,181 vehicles for the month — a 4.2 percent increase over the same period last year. Through the first 11 months of 2018, Volvo has sold 89,437 vehicles — a 24.5 percent year-over-year increase.

"With November marking the 11th month of consecutive year-over-year growth, we have already surpassed total 2017 sales by nearly 8,000 units," said Anders Gustafsson, president and CEO of Volvo Cars USA. "We are well-poised to finish 2018 strong."

Globally, Volvo set an annual sales record in November with a month still left in the books. The automaker sold 582,096 vehicles through November — 13.5 percent better than the same period a year ago.

Europe remains Volvo's top market, accounting for nearly half of all sales. China is the No. 2 market, accounting for about 20 percent of sales.

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Other South Carolina vehicle makers saw mixed results in November.

Germany's BMW, which has its largest manufacturing campus in the Upstate, sold 28,330 cars to U.S. consumers in November — a 1 percent increase over last year. It was the 16th consecutive month of sales increases for the company that builds X-model SUVs in Spartanburg County.

Through the first 11 months of 2018, BMW sold 276,657 vehicles in the U.S., a 2 percent increase.

Mercedes-Benz Vans, which builds Sprinter vans at its new North Charleston plant, saw year-over-year U.S. sales drop 17.7 percent in November to 1,857 vehicles. The van maker has sold 27,453 Sprinters year-to-date — nearly 12 percent better than last year.

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