BMW News

BMW Plant Spartanburg celebrated its 20th anniversary by building and exporting enough vehicles to remain the nation’s leading auto exporter in 2014, and is on its way to becoming the largest BMW factory in the world.

The Spartanburg, South Carolina BMW plant—which geo-purists will point out is actually located in Greer, South Carolina—pushed the button to start its first production line in 1994. In 2014, the export of passenger vehicles built in the plant and shipped through the Port of Charleston totaled $9,200,000,000, more than any other U.S. automotive exporter.

According to U.S. Department of Commerce figures, this was a 13 percent jump over the value of vehicles exported from BMW Plant Spartanburg in 2013.

The factory produced 364,000 vehicles in 2014. Over 70 percent of these—more than 260,000—were exported out of the U.S. BMW Plant Spartanburg is the BMW X capital of the world. It produces the BMW X3, X4, X5, X5 M, X6, and X6 M. The X vehicles that BMW makes in South Carolina are shipped to 140 countries worldwide.

“Claiming the top spot for U.S. automobile exports rounds out a very successful year for BMW in South Carolina. With more than 364,000 units, 2014 was also a record production year for the plant,” said Manfred Erlacher, President and CEO of BMW Manufacturing. “Our company’s significant contribution to the U.S. balance of trade strengthens our position as the leading manufacturer of premium vehicles for the world.”

Last year, BMW announced that its Spartanburg plant would undergo another billion-dollar expansion, which would make it the largest BMW factory in the world with an annual production capability of 450,000 units. It will also be home for manufacturing the new BMW X7 Sport Activity Vehicle.

The total contribution to the economy of South Carolina and the U.S. doesn’t just come from the manufacturing facility. The Greer Inland Port provides the capability to ship BMWs by rail overnight to the Port of Charleston, 212 miles away. It would be hard to imagine a better transportation infrastructure for global export than what BMW has in South Carolina, where a BMW can come off the production line, be shuttled over to the Greer Inland port where it is loaded onto a rail car,  and the next be at the port, ready to get in line to load on a ship,

“BMW vehicles, world renowned for their brand and quality, continue to be a major contributor to the South Carolina Ports Authority’s overall success,” said Jim Newsome, President and CEO, South Carolina Ports Authority. He added, “We are proud to handle both finished vehicles and parts for BMW, whose presence in South Carolina endorses the capabilities of our ports and logistics infrastructure.”

BMW has also built a $13,400,000, 414,534-square-foot warehouse adjacent to the Greer Inland Port to be used for staging vehicle assembly kits for export. In some global markets, especially those in which customs regulations may be problematic for importing complete automobiles, BMW operates assembly plants. In these cases, parts and components are packaged in the home plant (for example, Spartanburg), and then exported for assembly in other countries where the kits are augmented with some locally manufactured parts. BMW currently operates such automobile plants in Thailand, Malaysia, Russia, Egypt, Indonesia, and India, plus a motorcycle assembly factory in Brazil.

An added benefit to everyday users of South Carolina highways is that every BMW vehicle or assembly kit that is transported by rail reduces truck traffic on the interstate highways between Spartanburg—or Greer—and Charleston.

Many BMW enthusiasts visited the Spartanburg plant in its early days in the mid-1990s. Did any of us think then that it would not only become BMW's largest factory, but also the leading car exporter in the country? Pretty good move, BMW.—Scott Blazey

[Photos courtesy of BMW AG.]