From The State
COLUMBIA, SC — South Carolina’s biggest automotive gains this year were the bullets it dodged.
DaimlerChrysler was the biggest player, putting in motion a series of moves that by December left South Carolina about 220 jobs richer, after months of facing the prospect of losing at least that many jobs.
Overall, the state’s number of automotive jobs has been essentially flat since 2000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
BMW didn’t expand in 2005, but the year closed with the 4,600-employee plant retooling for a new mystery vehicle, and an announcement of plans for a new, $48 million stamping plant in Union County to sheath them.
South Carolina didn’t win a new auto plant — like the project code-named Project Pinetree that might be considering Aiken and Chester County. However, no other state did either, keeping the state’s hopes alive for the long-rumored auto project. Toyota, Audi and Kia were mentioned as prospects.
In Sumter, SC, Bosch said in November that it would keep its 600-employee brake plant there open until mid-2008, a year longer than announced by the German parts maker in 2004.
Meanwhile, Collins & Aikman, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May, spared its 600 workers in Greenville molding carpets for cars, while announcing plans to cut 975 jobs at five plants in other states by the end of 2006.
In September, DaimlerChrysler said it was planning to sell its American LaFrance business, but not its 460,000-square-foot Ladson, SC, plant.
DaimlerChrysler said the buyer of American LaFrance would move fire truck assembly to plants in other states, which meant South Carolina would lose 500 jobs while gaining a few hundred jobs from expanded Sprinter kit production in Ladson.
In November, DaimlerChrysler said the Gaffney workers would be absorbed in the chassis plant and 220 jobs would be created in Ladson to assemble Sprinters. The company also held out the prospect of building a full plant at Ladson eventually.
This month, DaimlerChrysler announced it had sold American LaFrance to Patriarch Partners. In a turnabout, Patriarch chief executive Lynn Tilton said the plant would stay in the Charleston area.
Copyright 2005 State, Columbia, S.C. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.
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