The facility gives Volvo a footprint in the world's three largest markets, Europe, China, and the U.S., serving the Swedish carmaker's ambition to sell 800,000 cars worldwide by 2020. The company sold 571,577 vehicles in 2017, up 7 percent over 2016.
Volvo's fortunes have advanced so much since the factory was announced that the carmaker announced expansion plans for the South Carolina plant in the middle of construction. The original plan was a $500 million investment in a facility that could build 100,000 cars annually and employ around 4,000 workers. In 2017, CNBC reported that Volvo would double investment to $1 billion. The carmaker's fact sheet says total investment will come to $1.1 billion, capacity has increased to 150,000 cars per year with the addition of the XC90 in 2021, and the plant will ultimately employ 3,900 workers. By the end of this year, it's expected that 1,500 people will be on the job throughout the body shop, paint shop, final assembly area, vehicle processing center, and learning academy.
Volvo becomes the first Chinese-owned automaker to own a U.S. production facility, but it won't be the last. The company said it chose the location because of the infrastructure, the array of auto suppliers already in place, the proximity to a global port in Charleston, and to show intentions in the U.S. market. Around $200 million in state incentives also helped, but Mercedes-Benz runs a Sprinter plant in North Charleston, BMW builds SUVs in its Spartanburg, South Carolina, facility, and Volkswagen's Chattanooga, Tennessee, plant is only 400 miles away.