Charleston Regional Development Alliance

Berkeley, Charleston & Dorchester Counties

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DaimlerChrysler selects North Charleston for next-generation Sprinter van assembly plant

Nov. 1, 2005
South Carolina Department of Commerce
Columbia, SC— The world’s largest commercial vehicle producer DaimlerChrysler has selected North Charleston, S.C. as the site for its new Dodge Sprinter van assembly plant.

DaimlerChrysler will initially invest $35 million and employ 220 when the plant produces its first van in the final quarter of 2006. This is part one of a three-phase plan by the company that upon culmination could create 1800 jobs and $435 million in investment. Employment levels at the company’s current location in Gaffney will not be affected by this announcement.

Today’s announcement builds on South Carolina’s continued economic development successes of the last two years. The past year was the best year for the state since 1991 for recruiting jobs from new companies and it was the second-best year for total capital investment. The average wage for the jobs that the S.C. Department of Commerce recruited in 2004 was 31 percent higher than the per capita income in South Carolina. The state is on track for another banner year in terms of job-creation and capital investment, a fact further solidified by today’s announcement.

“We’ve said from day one that targeting and growing our state’s automotive sector is one of this administration’s top economic development priorities,” said Gov. Mark Sanford. “Like ICAR in Greenville, this is another major step forward on that front. With the Department of Commerce, we’re going to keep working to accelerate the pace of growth in our economy by continuing to bring quality companies and jobs home to South Carolina.”

To meet the strong demand for Sprinter vans in North American markets, DaimlerChrysler will adapt an existing facility to assemble the new vehicles. The facility is located at Ladson, just a few miles north of Charleston, on the site of a subsidiary belonging to DaimlerChrysler’s Freightliner LLC. The next-generation vehicles produced in South Carolina will replace the current Sprinter model in early 2007. Since 2001, the Sprinter has been on sale in the USA under the Freightliner and Dodge brands.

A comprehensive logistics study, conducted by DaimlerChrysler’s Commercial Vehicles Division, found Ladson to have a clear strategic manufacturing advantage.

“We have ambitious, long-term plans for the van market in North America,” said Dr. Rolf Bartke, head of DaimlerChrysler’s Mercedes-Benz vans business unit. “The Ladson location will provide an immediate increase in annual output to 32,000 units as a first step toward reacting to market demand, and we intend further factory expansion depending on the market development in the US and Canada.”

Bartke pointed to the hands-on involvement by state officials and easy access to the Port of Charleston as major reasons why South Carolina was the winner of an extremely competitive site selection process. The advantageous location of the Ladson facility will reduce in-process time for Sprinter vans since the kits from which the vehicles are built land directly at the Port of Charleston after shipping from Europe.

“Our company was tirelessly pursued by South Carolina’s leaders, which helped to make the state a clear winner in our site selection process,” Bartke said. “Governor Mark Sanford along with Commerce Secretary Bob Faith and his hardworking team at the South Carolina Department of Commerce pursued our company with diligence and determination to bring our jobs to their state.

Recognizing how critical relationships are in business, Governor Sanford and Secretary Faith made every effort to build relationships with senior leaders in our company and to communicate that South Carolina wanted to be a partner in our success.”

“Recruiting world-class companies like DaimlerChrysler is part of our long-term economic development strategy for bettering the lives of our citizens,” said Commerce Secretary Bob Faith. “We knew that South Carolina had exactly what Daimler Chrysler needed—a highly efficient port and a workforce well equipped for automotive success. We also knew that we could provide the best overall value to the company. We were extremely active in our pursuit, and I’m proud to say that our efforts paid off for the people of South Carolina.”

Faith also pointed out the enormous opportunity the announcement provides in terms of potential spin-off companies. Faith said that a decade after BMW located in South Carolina, the state is now home to 232 automotive suppliers and that there are automotive-related companies in 41 of 46 counties.

“This project has the potential to be a key driver in South Carolina’s economic engine as well as a huge step toward continuing to build our automotive cluster. Ultimately, that’s going to mean additional jobs, capital investment and economic opportunities for our state,” Faith continued. “DaimlerChrysler’s announcement today is an outstanding economic development success for South Carolina and I know that this company will count South Carolina as a success. Our workers are ready to take on the challenge of building not just any van, but the next-generation Dodge Sprinter van. South Carolina is excited to have another opportunity to excel.”

“Within the past year, the Charleston region has welcomed two major projects that will significantly shape the future of our economy," said Bill McCall, chairman of the Charleston Regional Development Alliance. “These operations will serve as anchors for two of our target industry clusters, and the S.C. Department of Commerce has played a huge role in making them happen. We greatly appreciate their leadership.”

"This is truly historic," said Leon E. Stavrinakis, Chairman of Charleston County Council. "DaimlerChrysler is the gold standard of automakers, and we are so very pleased they will be calling North Charleston home. This Sprinter plant will become the region's first full automotive assembly operation, and it joins our many successful automotive suppliers in the North Charleston area, filling in what was a missing piece in our automotive cluster."

“The economic impact of this project goes well beyond the jobs and investment announced today,” said Keith Summey, Mayor of North Charleston. “Attracting and growing the automotive industry in our area is a top economic development priority. This is truly a triumph, not just for North Charleston, but for our entire region.”

About the next-generation Sprinter

For ten years the Sprinter under the Mercedes-Benz brand has led the way in what has long been known as the "Sprinter class" in Europe. With some 1.3 million units sold, the Sprinter's record as the market leader for vans with gross vehicle weights of around 3.5 tons speaks for itself. The new Dodge Sprinter is due for launch in the spring of next year and will once again set the benchmark.

The all new Sprinter brings new standards of refinement, space and performance previously not offered in the light-duty van market. The Sprinter has become even more flexible with body and engine variants meeting all requirements and adding the safety features of the new adaptive Electronic Stability Program (ESP), being able to measure the weight of the vehicle’s load, calculate the center of gravity and adapt its responses correspondingly. Per October 2005, 22,800 Sprinter vans were sold in the NAFTA region (full year 2004: 19,800 units).

About DaimlerChrysler

DaimlerChrysler’s product portfolio ranges from small cars to sports cars to luxury sedans; and from versatile vans to heavy duty trucks or coaches. Commercial vehicle brands for the company include Mercedes-Benz, Freightliner, Sterling, Western Star, Thomas Built Buses, Orion, Setra, and Mitsubishi Fuso. Daimler Chrysler’s strategy rests on four pillars: global presence, superior products, leading brands, and technology leadership. The company employs 384,723 and achieved revenues of $192.3 billion in 2004. It has manufacturing facilities in numerous countries and its products are sold in more than 200 countries.

Clare Morris
S.C. Department of Commerce
Office 803.737.0402
Cell 803.413.6808

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