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Upstate plant ranks No. 2 in BMW operations worldwide


By Chuck Crumbo
ccrumbo@scbiznews.com
Published Nov. 30, 2012

BMW’s manufacturing facility in the Upstate now ranks as the Germany-based carmaker’s No. 2 production plant in the world.

Josef-KerscherThe sprawling, 4 million-square-foot plant off Interstate 85 near Greer in Spartanburg County is on target to produce 300,000 vehicles this year, said Josef Kerscher (pictured, left), president of BMW Manufacturing.

“Our plant is the second-largest manufacturing facility,” Kerscher said. “It’s not what we expected 17 years ago” when BMW began operations at its first and only plant in North America.

Kerscher offered his remarks Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Executive Lecture Series at USC’s Darla Moore School of Business.

BMW, though, is not slowing down in South Carolina. Kerscher noted that the company is in the midst of a $900 million expansion that will increase the plant’s annual production capacity to 350,000 units. Last year the plant produced 276,056 cars.

When the project is completed, BMW expects to increase the Upstate plant’s payroll by 300 workers. BMW presently employs about 7,000 people.

The expansion will allow BMW to add a fourth model – the X4 – to its line of sports activity vehicles produced at the Upstate plant, Kerscher said.

Kerscher declined to offer many details about the new model, destined to be introduced in 2014, saying he had to view pictures of the car in a “dark room in Munich,” home of BMW’s world headquarters.

According to trade publications, the X4 essentially will be a sportier version of the X3, featuring coupe styling instead of the boxy SUV design.

All of BMW’s sports activity vehicles – classified as SUVs or light trucks – are built in South Carolina. Some 70% are shipped through the Port of Charleston to 130 world markets, Kerscher said.

BMW plant-01-highresBMW is the leading exporter of motor vehicles made in the United States.

The key to BMW’s success as the world’s No. 1 premium brand has been exports, Kerscher added.

“We’ve always been focused on exporting because Germany is not a big market,” Kerscher said. “So we’ve always had to learn how to be competitive in the world market.”

Germany and China are the top two destinations for S.C.-made products, Kerscher said, adding that BMW has the flexibility to respond to demand anywhere on the globe.

Although it appears the European economy is down, Kerscher said BMW seems to be holding its own in the premium car market

“The Asian market is growing, the U.S. market is growing,” Kerscher added. “So overall we are growing and we believe we can overcome the situation.”

Being in South Carolina has kept BMW competitive, Kerscher said. He praised the cooperation and help of state and local governments, and labeled the Upstate as a “business-friendly community.” He also lauded the quality and work ethic of the company’s employees.

“This is a business environment that we really like and helps us to be competitive in the U.S. marketplace, to be competitive in the world market,” Kerscher said.

“If you’re not competitive in our business, you will be out of business very soon.”

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