BMW’s big gamble in the U.S. 26 years ago continues paying off with the most recent “win” being the 5 millionth vehicle built that rolled off the line at its plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
The milestone vehicle is a Toronto Red Metallic BMW X5 M Competition equipped with a 617-horsepower M TwinPower Turbo V-8 engine, Silverstone Full Merino Leather interior and 21/22-inch M Star-spoke bi-color wheels.
If you’re wondering where in the world – Spartanburg is the only plant on the planet that builds the X5 –the historic SAV is going, it’s staying on-site. Due to its significance, the X5 M Competition will remain at the factory, becoming part of the BMW historic collection.
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“You cannot be successful in business if you do not have great products and great people. This BMW X5 M Competition is a symbol of the success of our products and the commitment and dedication of our associates and supplier network,” said Knudt Flor, president and CEO of BMW Manufacturing. “Every BMW X5 in the world comes from Plant Spartanburg. We are proud to call South Carolina home!”
The plant is has exported more than 70% of its production to buyers outside of the U.S. for the last decade. It produces the X3, X4, X5, X6 and X7. At one time, it was the only plant in the world that produced BMW’s sport-activity vehicles.
The 5 millionth vehicle is an impressive marker for a plant that was considered a massive risk more than a quarter century ago. When the automaker determined it would build a plant in the U.S., it was flooded with appeals from more than 100 locations across the country.
After whittling it down to a dozen potential locations, Bernd Pischetrieder, who was in charge of BMW’s manufacturing operations at the time and would later become CEO, and a couple of other executives traveled to the U.S. incognito to get a better feel for the areas in contention, the former CEO once told TheDetroitBureau.com.
He said they wanted to see what it would like to live in each area, gauging the quality of life as well as the location’s viability as a manufacturing site. They were afraid to talk too loudly in each of the places they visited, he told TheDetroitBureau.com several years back, because they didn’t want to give away that they were German and attract unnecessary attention.
The site was initially expected to produce about 70,000 to 80,000 units annually when it opened in late 1994. The first vehicle built was a white 318i sedan, which is also in the company’s historic collection. In the more than two decades since the company’s invested $10.6 billion in the site, which has been expanded six times and now encompasses more than 7 million square feet of space.
In 2019, it produced more than 411,000 vehicles, and led the nation in automotive exports by value for the sixth consecutive year, with a total export value of approximately $9.6 billion.
“More than half of the BMW vehicles we sell in the U.S. are built right here in the U.S., so we cannot overstate the importance of Plant Spartanburg to our sales network,” said Bernhard Kuhnt, president and CEO, BMW of North America.
“BMW Group has long considered the United States to be our second home and we are proud to say that the U.S. is in fact home to the biggest BMW plant in the world. We congratulate our colleagues on this historic achievement.”