50 new jobs celebrated during Volvo ribbon-cutting

August 16, 2012|By DAN DEARTH |
  • Ron Hubers, Volvo Trucks President of North American sales and marketing cuts a ribbon for the new transmission assembly line at Volvo Plant in Hagerstown on Thursday.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

The Volvo Powertrain plant near Hagerstown celebrated the creation of 50 new jobs with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday afternoon.

Plant Vice President Wade Watson said before the ceremony that workers at the Hagerstown facility will start serial production of the company’s new automated manual transmissions next week.

The systems will be installed in heavy trucks.

“It’s a proud moment for this factory,” Watson said. “We’ve been here for 50 years, and this is a continued evolution of the change this factory has been through. It’s a very innovative product. It shows the Volvo group is committed to building in the U.S. for U.S. customers.”

Watson said Volvo invested $8 million to build a new assembly line at the plant to manufacture the transmissions. In addition to assembly line workers, he said, the new jobs include mechanical engineers and maintenance technicians.

“They were hired locally. They’re already here,” Watson said.

The 12-speed automated manual transmission system has the configuration of a manual transmission with an automated box on the top that does the shifting.

“It has the durability and the strength of a manual and the ease of use of an automatic,” Watson said. “There are two pedals and no clutch ... The electronics do all the shifting, so all the driver has to do is step on the accelerator, and the engine and the transmission work together to figure out the right shift points.”

Watson said the system considers speed, acceleration, air resistance, the weight of the load and the incline of the roadway to determine when to shift.

He said the result makes for easier operation and increased fuel efficiency.

More than 1,000 employees and others gathered in a section of the plant Thursday afternoon to listen to Volvo executives and dignitaries, including U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, talk about the new transmission system and the benefit of keeping jobs in the United States.

Bartlett, R-Md., said he predicted the system would be a big seller because of the fuel efficiency it offers at a time when gas prices are high.

The congressman thanked Volvo for investing locally, but said the workers at the plant needed to be thanked for proving they were worth the investment.

“Thank you very, very much for the message you send about who we are in Western Maryland,” Bartlett said.

Bartlett and Washington County Commissioner Jeffrey A. Cline said after the ceremony that the new jobs might be a sign that the economy is improving.

“This is great news for Washington County, and what a novel concept — insourcing, keeping jobs not only in America, but in Washington County,” Cline said.

Volvo assembly line employee Darrin Eichelberger said the plant has had its ups and downs with hirings and layoffs in his 13 years at the facility.

He said the new assembly line shows proof that the company is on the upswing once again.

“The morale is improving,” Eichelberger said. “This is a sign it will continue.”

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