BMW North America has announced plans to open a new Vehicle Distribution Center (VDC) in Baltimore, Maryland. The new facility will be located at Sparrows Point, Maryland, and will be part of the Tradepoint Atlantic Terminal, which is partially built on the site of the old Bethlehem Sparrows Point Shipyard, founded in 1887. Expected to come online in September, the location will serve as an import and distribution hub for BMW and Mini vehicles arriving by roll-on roll-off (RORO) vessels bound for the U.S. from Europe and Mexico.
The Baltimore facility will join several other BMW VDCs across the U.S. in states such as California, Texas, New Jersey, and Georgia, which serve 349 BMW and 121 Mini dealers nationwide. Like the other VDCs, the new location in Baltimore will also handle vehicle inspections, mechanical, paint, and body repairs, vehicle programming and maintenance, and the installation of what are called port-installed accessories. Up to 100,000 vehicles will pass through the new VDC annually, and the facility will require 60 full-time staff.
The VDC is to be built on a 35-acre site on the Tradepoint Atlantic Terminal, a site which has served as a deepwater port for well over a century. More specifically, BMW NA will be constructing a new 75,000 square-foot building, which is engineered specifically for its purpose, with state-of-the-art equipment and preparation. Of the more than 470 American BMW and Mini dealerships, the new Baltimore VDC will specifically cater to 126 located in the eastern and central regions of the U.S.
BMW’s new cutting-edge VDC will be built on land that once played host to one of Bethlehem Steel’s largest mills, which supplied steel used in projects like the Golden Gate Bridge and The George Washington Bridge, in addition to production for both world wars. The site has been a deepwater port since 1889, and received its first ship in 1891. Bethlehem Steel purchased the Sparrow’s Point Shipyard in 1917, and produced 116 ships at the site between 1939 and 1946.
After Bethlehem’s bankruptcy in 2005, Sparrows Point passed through the hands of a number of different owners before ultimately being acquired by Sparrows Point Terminal, LLC in 2014, which has agreements with the Maryland Department of the Environment and the U.S. EPA to perform environmental cleanup of the site. Cleaning the site was the first step toward major redevelopment of Sparrows Point, which is now seeing revitalized investment in the form of BMW’s VDC in addition to other large companies, like Amazon and FedEx, which built or opened facilities there in 2016 and 2018.
BMW’s VDCs are an integral part of the journey a new vehicle takes from the factory to the driveway or garage of its first owner. The facilities, located at strategic points across the U.S., are some of the most multifaceted in BMW’s global decentralized production network, and are where port-installed options and accessories are fitted to your car, such as M Performance carbon-fiber parts and wheel and tire sets, for example.
BMW VDCs are private facilities which are closely guarded, but occasionally, BMW CCA members from select chapters are afforded the opportunity to tour them. For a look inside a VDC, check out this BimmerLife article from 2018.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy BMW AG, Travis Sterne.]