Which automaker do you think ships the most cars out of North America, one of the Detroit Three or perhaps one of the Japanese automakers? Nope. It turns out the BMW's Spartanburg, SC, factory is the biggest automotive exporter from the continent in the United States. According to a recent profile by Bloomberg looking at the plant's 20th anniversary, Bimmer's southern ops sends out more vehicles than all of Michigan combined.

When the Spartanburg factory opened up in 1994, its success was hardly assured, largely because of South Carolina's relatively small economy at the time. However, BMW picked the site because of its proximity to East Coast shipping that made it easier to move engines and transmission in from Germany and export vehicles back to Europe, according to Bloomberg. The Bavarians clearly made the right choice.

Today, the plant has developed into an absolute powerhouse. The factory currently assembles the X3, X4, X5 and X6 and exports about 70 percent of the vehicles built there. Things are only getting better. BMW is investing $1 billion through 2016 to boost annual production from the current 300,000 units up to 450,000 and to build a new flagship crossover called X7. The expansion also adds a further 800 jobs there to take total employment up to about 8,800. Including the latest financing, BMW has put over $7.3 billion into the factory since it opened, notes Bloomberg.

These days, BMW clearly sees strength in the North American market as a production hub. In addition to Spartanburg, it runs a carbon fiber factory as a joint venture in Washington State that is due for a further $200 million expansion in 2015. The Bavarian automaker also just announced a $1 billion factory in San Luis Potosí, Mexico, that will build 150,000 cars a year starting in 2019.


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 29 Comments
      NJ M
      • 6 Months Ago
      They're pretty green too. They have a pipeline to the county dump where methane gas from the dump is used to power more than half of its production plant. Very cool.
      JayP
      • 6 Months Ago
      I would have lost that bar bet... Interesting.
      Sacto1654
      • 6 Months Ago
      I think BMW may expand this facility so it will build all of its "crossover" SUV models intended for the US market here. That means the next-generation X1 due about a year from now could be built at Spartanburg eventually.
        David
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Sacto1654
        That's doubtful. The next X1 will be built alongside MINI and 2er Active Tourer models, all of which use the new UKL platform.
      PTC DAWG
      • 6 Months Ago
      The plant is located in Greer, South Carolina, FYI.
      diffrunt
      • 6 Months Ago
      A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon it starts to add up to a lotta dough!
      churchmotor
      • 6 Months Ago
      Suckit UAW
        Zoom
        • 6 Months Ago
        @churchmotor
        You tell 'em! Workers suck! All hail the millionaire CEOs!
          churchmotor
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Zoom
          Zoom, I've seen your communist rantings on here before.
          Victor Kuc
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Zoom
          There is no quarrel with the workers bu the gangsters who have the gall to claim to represent them.
      knightrider_6
      • 6 Months Ago
      I'm glad 70% of these are exported to other countries. I want my fellow Americans to drive quality cars
        Jai
        • 6 Months Ago
        @knightrider_6
        Of course. Now go enjoy your well built Chevy. Oh it's been recalled? My bad.
      ferps
      • 6 Months Ago
      BMW knows a good deal when they see one. You won't find another developed, stable nation where labor is so cheap.
      thrutheeyesofbry
      • 6 Months Ago
      I was told this when I was in tech school. I didn't want to state as fact as I only heard it as word of mouth. Very cool. And all they build are the SAVs. I would say the 3er is their most popular model. I am guessing this isn't the greatest of accomplishment s though. How many American brand cars are made in America? I am under the impression most are made in Canada and another good percentage is made in Mexico. Other than the Corvette and the Mustang, what's made in the USA?
        yonomo200
        • 6 Months Ago
        @thrutheeyesofbry
        Chrysler 200 Jeep Cherokee Jeep Grand Cherokee Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra Dodge Dart Chevrolet Sonic Buick Verano Buick LaCrosse Chevrolet Impala (some in the US some in Canada) Cadillac CTS Cadillac ATS Buick Enclave Chevrolet Traverse GMC Acadia Chevrolet Corvette Ford Mustang Ford Focus Ford C Max Ford Fusion Chevrolet Volt Chevrolet Malibu Chevrolet Suburban GMC Yukon Cadillac Escalade... Do I need to go on? I am sure there are plenty I am forgetting. Anyone should feel free to add or correct anything I've listed.
          Jerry
          • 6 Months Ago
          @yonomo200
          Same can be said for the BMW SAVs though. The whole power train comes from the EU for final assembly into the vehicles in SC. They may export the final product from the USA, but the biggest components in the vehicle are imported.
          yonomo200
          • 6 Months Ago
          @yonomo200
          You must only see 300s or old Impalas. By far, most American brand cars are built in the US. Very few models are built outside the US.
          engr00
          • 6 Months Ago
          @yonomo200
          Ya but what is the % content that is actually made here in each one of those? I believe there is a chart on the net somewhere that shows what percentage is, e.g. 100% USA made. Its not many these days. And by that I am of course referring to a Instrument Panel for example that is made in Canada and then shipped to say MI for assembly.
          thrutheeyesofbry
          • 6 Months Ago
          @yonomo200
          More than I figured. Guess I was wrong. I am used to seeing most American cars with the VIN number starting with a 2 which means it is made in Canada. Glad to hear they back to creating jobs here.
          Jerry
          • 6 Months Ago
          @yonomo200
          Same can be said for the BMW SAVs though. The whole power train comes from the EU for final assembly into the vehicles in SC. They may export the final product from the USA, but the biggest components in the vehicle are imported.
      ffelix422
      • 6 Months Ago
      So next time you want to support American built product you know were not to go...
      Stridenttube
      • 6 Months Ago
      Really incredible! Good to see BMW investing in the plant. I had no idea that the BMW plant was so big. Great for SC as well!
        nojoisey
        • 1 Month Ago
        @Stridenttube

        Say thanks to Mark Sanford, Fritz Hollings & Strom y'all

      Double-T
      • 6 Months Ago
      OMG... how many X models are there? Never realized. And they're coming up with yet another? That said, congrats to BMW, South Carolina, and those 8,800 employees.
    • Load More Comments