The numbers are in, and according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, BMW has secured the top spot in terms of total vehicle export value. This is the fifth year running that BMW has bested all other automakers in terms of the value of their automotive exports from the U.S., and the latest achievement for 2018 comes courtesy of 234,689 X models—66% of total volume—produced at Plant Spartanburg in South Carolina, or roughly $8,400,000,000.

BMW Plant Spartanburg is the largest in the automaker’s manufacturing portfolio, even though production only commenced 25 years ago in September 1994—decades after other European facilities were established. During 2018, the total output of production at Spartanburg was 356,749 BMW X models, a figure that is down slightly compared to 2017 with model changeover for the X4 and X5 cited for the reduction. Total capacity for the plant is 450,000 vehicles per year, employing a staff of 11,000.

Spartanburg has a far-reaching and wide-ranging positive impact on the U.S. economy as well. The multiplier effect of the South Carolina-based facility is an impressive one, with almost $6,000,000,000 in purchases of parts and materials benefitting over 300 American suppliers. According to a local university study, every ten jobs at the production facility are responsible for creating 90 more throughout the economy as a direct result.

Even with uncertain trade policies and steep tariffs between the U.S. and China currently acting as a drag on sales, BMW has continued investing in Spartanburg. $600,000,000 worth of expansion, improvements and upgrades were announced in 2017, with $200,000,000 of that occurring from then until 2021. The aforementioned production capacity total of 450,000 units per year is actually a goal, which is set for 2021, and it seems that staff has already added additional personnel for the new fourth-gen X5 and the new X7, while the X3 is also selling in large volume across the world—and remains the brand’s most popular model in the U.S.

Exports from Plant Spartanburg are primarily routed to the Port of Charleston, where they begin their ocean going journey across the world on roll-on, roll-off (RORO) vehicle transport vessels, although various other ports in the Southwest, located in places such as Savannah and Brunswick, Georgia, and Jacksonville, Miami, and Everglades, Florida, also see some BMW action. On the average, the 1,400 vehicles are made each day, and the 4,500,000th BMW was produced at the 25-year-old plant during February 2019.—Alex Tock

[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]



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