From 3 series to X
BMW has been flexible in its use of Spartanburg. BMW went from breaking ground in June 1992 to production of the 381i, its first vehicle, 14 months later in September 1994. By auto industry standards, it was considered a rapid startup.
The 3-series sedan was produced until 1995 when factory production shifted to the Z3 roadster. The Z3, in three variants, was produced until 2002.
Spartanburg ended Z3 manufacturing and made the larger Z4 successor from 2002 to 2008.
BMW expanded the factory in 2008 with a $750 million investment to produce the X3, the smallest crossover it makes in the United States.
In 2012, after seizing the U.S. luxury brand sales crown from Lexus, BMW made an additional investment of $900 million to add 50,000 units of production and 300 jobs in preparation for the X4, a crossover with coupelike styling smaller but similar to the X6. The factory has a capacity of 350,000 units, and the X4 goes on sale in the United States this June.
A factory spokeswoman said by the end of 2014, BMW will have more than 8,000 employees in Spartanburg. The plant currently has two body shops, a paint shop with two lines and two assembly halls.
To produce the X3 in 2010, BMW used a “finger plant” design similar to its Leipzig plant in Germany.
“The fingers are constructed along the sides of the plant and allow for direct deliveries to the exact point -- 130 dock doors -- for 80 percent just-in-time delivery on the production line,” BMW’s Foster said.
A logistics warehouse was also constructed as part of the X3 assembly facility “to ensure leaner processes and quicker delivery routes,” he said.
BMW cancelled X7 development in 2008, at the height of the automotive market’s collapse. But with demand for larger crossovers now growing in the United States, BMW decided to restart work on the X7 instead of increasing the size of the redesigned X5 that went on sale last year.