Until last week, BMW Manufacturing Corp. told the world it was spending $200 million to expand its U.S. plant.
Now BMW says it is investing three times that amount to introduce a second world vehicle.
The $600 million expansion has been under way since last year. But company spokesman Carl Flesher said BMW chose to keep mum on the full scale of the work. The factory did not want to be inundated with early job seekers, he said.
BMW also revealed that it intends to double the number of people it expects to hire at the Spartanburg County, S.C., plant. As recently as last month, , BMW said the expansion would require 400 to 500 additional workers. Last week, BMW raised the number to 1,000.
BMW currently employs 2,000 people. The openings are expected to draw at least 20,000 applicants.
Flesher says South Carolina state agencies are standing by to begin receiving applications. Using company criteria, the state will spend the next six months thinning out the applicants. Hiring will begin in January 1999.
The new activity may put a wrinkle in the UAW's planned organizing efforts, scheduled to begin this year.
UAW President Steve Yokich told Automotive News in March that the UAW intended to work with the German labor union IG Metall this summer to organize BMW's South Carolina plant and Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Inc. in Vance, Ala.
BMW last week confirmed what was already widely assumed: that the Spartanburg plant will build a new sport-utility. The so-called 'sport activity vehicle' - built on a car platform - will debut for the 2000 model year.
BMW still will not reveal how many of the vehicles it will build, however. Flesher said BMW sales officials worldwide are trying to determine what volume their markets will sell.
Exports will be a key part of BMW's calculations. Since the plant began production in September 1994, its has exported 66 percent of its vehicles, Flesher said.