GOTHENBURG, Sweden -- BMW will expand its global production capacity by more than 200,000 units within three years.
Speaking at the Automotive News Europe Congress in Sweden, BMW manufacturing chief Norbert Reithofer said the company would increase annual capacity at its plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, USA, from 120,000 units in 2001 to 150,000 units in 2003.
The X5 sport-utility and Z3 sports car are currently built in Spartanburg. Adding a third model and increasing Spartanburg's capacity is an option "after 2005," Reithofer said.
Since launching Z3 production in Spartanburg in 1996, BMW has seen its US sales grow from 50,000 to 200,000 units a year. Reithofer said a large part of that success was due to the decision to locate a production base in the USA.
"Plants are not unimportant for markets," he said.
Reithofer said the Spartanburg factory could also become a "competence center" for BMW's X models, suggesting that the X3 compact sport-utility could be produced there as well.
Production of the X3 has been contracted to Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria, with an estimated initial capacity of 30,000 units a year. That could be increased to as much as 60,000 units.
The contract with Magna Steyr was signed in October 2001 and series production of the X3 should begin in 2004.
BMW is currently investing in a new plant in Leipzig, Germany. The greenfield plant will add 156,000 units annually. Designed by architect Zaha Hadid in London, the Leipzig plant "will become the BMW benchmark for production," Reithofer said.
The new German facility will begin by producing the 3-series sedan in 2005. A second model could be added later. The coming 1-series small car is one possibility, Reithofer said.
BMW is building another new factory in Goodwood, England, to produce the new Rolls-Royce. BMW takes over ownership of Rolls-Royce from Volkswagen in January.
Reithofer contrasted the state-of-the-art Leipzig plant with the Goodwood facility.
"The new home of Rolls-Royce only has two robots," he said. "High-quality wood and leather work will be carried out by hand, following Rolls-Royce tradition. This just proves there can be no single model for a factory of the future."
BMW currently has 14 assembly and engine plants and eight CKD (complete knockdown) facilities globally.
Asked where else BMW might decide to establish new production facilities, Reithofer said: "We have some ideas. We will probably look toward Asia. We already have a CKD plant in Thailand."
The Thai plant currently assembles the 3 and 5 series and has just begun assembling the 7 series.
- Geoff Barton contributed