The BMW Performance Center in Spartanburg, South Carolina is celebrating its twentieth year, with operations having commenced back in 1999. The idea of building a playground of sorts where customers can push brand vehicles to their absolute limits was something of a new idea back then, but in the two decades since, other manufactures have followed suit, and BMW itself has also expanded with an additional facility accessible to residents of the West Coast.
Many BMW CCA members are well-versed with what the BMW Performance Center has to offer, but for the uninitiated, these facilities are incredible to spend a day or weekend at. They also offer an array of different programs, from teen driving schools and car control clinics to the advanced M School experiences where the more advanced facets of what BMW refers to as dynamic driving are explored and mastered. Regardless of what program or educational experience one attends, those of us who have been lucky enough to heat up some tires at either of the locations are known come away in a euphoric trance that only gives way to an intense desire to someday return.
In the midst of the different activities one is treated to at the performance center, it’s easy to get lost in the sound of M engines running at full tilt, and expensive rubber being expended. Not many of us stop to think about just how long BMW has putting the whole thing on, but with twenty years worth of historical data on the books now, the statistics are pretty impressive. The performance center locations also operate almost 365 days a year, with programs, schools and individual activities in almost continuous operations during daytime hours, seven days a week. Over the years, it’s all added up to the following:
- 250,000 participants
- 50,000 tires burned through
- 2,700 brand-new BMWs driven on track, many of them M models
- Groups ranging in size from six to 600
The same year that things kicked off at the performance center, BMW introduced Performance Center Delivery. Aimed at those who want to experience what their new purchase is capable of, customers can choose to take delivery at one of the two BMW Performance Center locations in the U.S. where track time in a BMW just like theirs awaits. Over the years, more than $1,400,000,000 worth of BMWs and MINIs have been delivered this way, a figure that translates to over 23,000 vehicles. Long-time BMW CCA members Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Baicar received the first delivery back in 1999—a 2000 M Coupe—and have since returned four times, while another customer has taken delivery of nearly twenty vehicles via the performance center.
In 2014, BMW broke ground on a second location, this time conveniently located at the private pavement of the Thermal Club, an exclusive racetrack located in the Coachella Valley that one can purchase a custom-built home next to. Starting before the formal BMW Performance Center facility had even been completed, the Thermal Club has been hosting similar events to those found at the Spartanburg complex, with numerous local BMW CCA chapters participating for around five years now.
The formula seems to be a successful one, with other auto manufacturers who cater to similar individuals also having opened up facilities to serve people on both coasts of the U.S. Beyond allowing customers to experience its vehicles to their fullest potential though, BMW is also making use of their performance center locations for new model launches and media gatherings, in addition to wide-ranging charity events, fund raisers, and benefits.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]