BMW AG has begun importing more vehicles through its Charleston, S.C., port to keep pace with rising U.S. sales.
Until last month, imports for BMW's 11-state Midwestern region entered the United States through Port Elizabeth, N.J. Now BMW is bringing those vehicles through Charleston to its assembly plant in Spartanburg, S.C., for processing.
The plant already was processing imported BMWs and Mini Coopers for the 11-state Southeast sales region, in addition to building the Z4 roadster and X5 SUV. And BMW already uses Charleston to export vehicles built in Spartanburg. In all, the port was processing 115,000 vehicles annually.
But a BMW Manufacturing Corp. spokeswoman in Spartanburg said additional U.S. port capacity was needed. The change will mean a shift of about 35,000 vehicles a year.
That will support BMW's rising import volumes. BMW's U.S. sales growth this year has come from the X5, as well as the imported 6-series car and X3 SUV. The 6 series and X3 alone represented an additional 34,000 imports during the first 10 months of this year.
BMW will continue using the New Jersey port to supply dealers in BMW's Eastern sales region only.
BMW has a growing demand for port capacity. In addition to exporting the X5 and Z4 to more than 120 markets around the world, it imports engines and transmissions from Germany and Austria. Since the late 1990s, parts traffic has increased from 70 trans-Atlantic containers a week to now more than 150 a week.
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