Tear up and relaunch a production line in six weeks?
That's the plan at BMW AG's assembly plant in Spartanburg, S.C., where a demolition squad began ripping out the company's Z4 roadster assembly line on Nov. 16.
According to the company, the Z4 line will be up and running again in early January.
The project will require the plant's 4,000 production workers to get out of the way, which means production of the X5 SUV also will stop. BMW is giving the entire plant a paid four-week holiday in December instead of the normal two.
Under the new layout, BMW will have a single flexible line. The roadster will be assembled on the same line as the X5. BMW is making the line longer to handle additional production.
The plant has been preparing for the rapid makeover all year. It has spent weekends and other free moments altering the plant's layout.
The larger plan is to create an assembly process in Spartanburg that will allow BMW to introduce more models in coming years. BMW plans a new sport wagon based on the X5 for 2007 or 2008. The vehicle will be built in Spartanburg.
Until this month, the plant has been encumbered by two largely incompatible assembly lines - one for the low-volume Z4 and one for the bigger-selling X5.
Plant spokeswoman Bunny Richardson says, "Up until now, if we wanted to introduce an additional model, we'd have to construct a new line."
Combining the two lines also gives the plant more flexibility to swap from one model to another as sales demand warrants.
Until now, it was difficult to move assembly workers back and forth.