SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- BMW AG plans to invest another $600 million in its Spartanburg, S.C., assembly plant -- its largest single source of light-vehicle production worldwide -- between 2018 and 2021. The expansion will create an additional 1,000 jobs at the plant by the end of that period.
BMW AG Chairman Harald Krueger announced the investment Monday at an event here marking the 25th anniversary of the company’s announcement that it would build the U.S. plant. The $600 million will go toward “manufacturing infrastructure for future generations of the BMW X models,” he said. That investment is in addition to the $1 billion BMW is spending to equip the plant to build its new X7 large crossover, with production slated to being in late 2018.
In a statement, Krueger said that the Spartanburg expansion is a testament to free trade: “Free trade has made this success story in the U.S. possible. I firmly believe in free trade and open markets. It is essential for global businesses and economies around the world to flourish. We will keep investing in our people and in our business in the U.S. Therefore, I remain confident that our footprint and commitment will continue to grow not only in the great state of South Carolina, but also in the United States in the years to come.”
That might be seen as a rebuttal to President Donald Trump’s recent criticism of German firms for the level of exports to the U.S.
BMW has invested $8 billion in Spartanburg to date and produced 3.9 million vehicles at the plant since it went online in 1994. It currently produces the X3, X4 X5 and X6 models and exports 70 percent of its vehicles to more than 140 countries.
During the event, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., brought up free trade issues.
“If you build a car in Mexico and you sell it in Europe, there is no tariff," Graham said. "If you build a car in America and sell it in Europe, there is a tariff. President Trump: Negotiate a trade agreement with Europe so we can sell cars to Europe without a tariff. We need more trade, not less.
“To those who fear globalization, embrace it because it’s not going away. If you are looking for an example of how globalization can be a net positive for the American people, come to South Carolina. We will show you how it’s done. We’ll entice the best companies in the world to spend billions of dollars. They’ll make money, and our citizens will have the best jobs.”
Krueger said Graham was “absolutely right.”
“We are in favor definitely that you reduce tariffs everywhere. Tariffs are not helping you growing the business. That’s why, for example, the automotive sector in Mexico has grown in manufacturing production -- because they have a lot of free trade agreements.”
Reducing tariffs between the U.S. and Europe would be a win-win, Krueger said. “It could grow the business on both sides.”
Also at Monday's event, BMW unveiled the redesigned 2018 X3 compact crossover. The updated model will go into production later this year and is scheduled to be in U.S. dealerships in November.
The plant currently has 9,000 employees, and the investment announced today will take it over the 10,000 mark. It’s maximum production capacity is 450,000 vehicles, and it is now BMW’s largest production location worldwide.