At Volvo's Ghent plant in Belgium today, the company marked a mini milestone as the first production XC40s began to roll off the production line.

The XC40 is Volvo's first small SUV, moving the company into what has quickly become the most competitive area of the market at the moment. Of course, it's not Volvo's first off-roader – it will join the larger XC60 and XC90 models in the Swedish firm's product lineup.

2018 Volvo XC40

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A number of high-profile guests were on hand to welcome the first XC40 off the production line. Belgian prime minister Charles Michel, Volvo Cars CEO Håkan Samuelsson and Javier Varela, Volvo's head of manufacturing were all among those in attendance.

'This is a proud day for Ghent, the company and all our employees here,' said Samuelsson. 'Our people have put in long days and many hours to prepare the plant for the start of XC40 production and they have done a great job. The XC40 represents a bright future for Ghent and for Volvo Cars.'

Ahead of the XC40's production, Volvo has invested heavily in its Ghent factory to prepare it for the making of the new car. The whole facility was refitted to produce cars using Volvo's own CMA small-car modular platform, on which the XC40 is based. An 8,000 square metre addition to the body shop was built, and 363 new robots have also been installed, including one that has been nicknamed 'the Beast' by factory employees. The large robot is unique within all of Volvo Cars’ global manufacturing plants, and is used to lift lower car bodies to a conveyor belt close to the ceiling of the plant.