GREER, S.C. — BMW U.S. manufacturing boss Robert Engelhorn is staring down a hairy challenge with global ramifications.
Engelhorn is orchestrating a $1.7 billion upgrade to bring the automaker's largest factory, near Spartanburg, S.C., into the electric era. At the same time, he must ensure the plant's global output of high-demand crossovers doesn't get gummed up in the process.
It's akin to upgrading an aircraft engine midflight.
The new investment is the largest single investment at the plant here, Engelhorn told Automotive News on the sidelines of an event attended by South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham.
The ambitious project will position the 30-year-old factory as a production powerhouse for next-generation BMW crossovers — a segment that has lifted the German marque to the top of the U.S. luxury sales charts for the past three years.
BMW Group CEO Oliver Zipse said the investment puts the South Carolina plant on the "EV map" and is "indicative of where the industry and BMW is headed."
BMW will invest $1 billion to retool the 7 million-square-foot factory to build at least six electric vehicles by 2030. An additional $700 million will go to create a battery pack assembly operation in nearby Woodruff, S.C.
At the same time, BMW has tapped battery supplier Envision AESC to build next-generation battery cells at a new factory in the state.
Engelhorn said the auto industry is undergoing its "biggest change in history" with a "full swing toward electromobility."
This investment, he said, lays the foundation for BMW's future.