Auto industry anticipates production losses ahead of Hurricane Florence

The BMW plant in Spartanburg, SC, which manufactures X3, X4, X5, and X6 models, is at risk of being shut down by Hurricane Florence. (Photo: Shutterstock )

As FreightWaves’ Ashley Coker reported on Tuesday, Washington D.C. has joined Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina in the growing list of places to declare states of emergency in preparation for the storm. Mandatory evacuation orders are rippling through the Carolinas, and millions are preparing to leave their homes as Hurricane Florence barrels toward the East Coast of the US.

LMC Automotive—global provider of predictive analytics and insights for the automotive industry—released a preliminary Hurricane Florence Impact Assessment on Tuesday. FreightWaves spoke to Bill Rinna, Director of Americas Vehicle Forecasts to learn more about the threat Hurricane Florence poses to the industry.

“The potential impact to vehicle and component production plants in the path of Florence is obviously one concern, but like we saw with Harvey, storm surges may damage thousands of vehicles and curtail sales in the short-term,” said Rinna.

LMC notes that “Light Vehicle production plants most at risk are the Mercedes-Benz (MB), Volvo and BMW plants in South Carolina, although with over 400 automotive suppliers located in that state alone, a supply chain disruption could be far reaching.”

In a statement to Automotive News, it was announced that the Mercedes-Benz Vans Charleston plant “has suspended operations for September 11 until further notice in anticipation of potential impacts from Hurricane Florence,” Volvo’s Charleston plant has also closed its doors in preparation for Hurricane Florence. “BMW’s Spartanburg, South Carolina plant, which is 200 miles off the coast, currently remains open,” LMC wrote.

“MB and Volvo are both in the process of ramping-up production at new plants, with MB launching the redesigned Sprinter van this month at its second plant in Charleston and Volvo set to start regular production of the all-new S60 at its new Ridgeville plant in October, which could be delayed,” LMC stated.

“MB’s first plant in Charleston produces Metris vans as kits. However, its closure does have potential to cause the greatest impact globally, as the plant serves as an export hub for its SUVs,” as reported by LMC.

LMC predicts that “while South Carolina vehicle assembly plants are at the greatest risk for extended production loss” plants in Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee could be impacted by flooding.

The BMW plant in Spartanburg could face a daily production loss of 1400 units, while the MB plant in Charleston could lose the ability to produce 205 units each day according to data from LMC.  

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Maria Baker, Staff Writer

Maria is a staff writer who has covered everything from the environment to sign-on bonuses and women in the industry. She is a recent graduate of Sewanee: The University of the South, where she majored in English literature and minored in environmental studies. Maria loves writing about freight almost as much as she loves Emily Dickinson and the self-imposed challenge of finding the best iced mocha in Chattanooga.