BMW Is Now America’s Largest Auto Export

Source: BMW

Germany’s BMW (BAMXY.PK) hit significant milestone on Friday: July 11 marks the company’s 20th year of producing vehicles in the United States at its Spartanburg, South Carolina facility. In addition to being hugely beneficial for the local economy and the U.S. overall, BMW’s presence in the largely rural state — it’s the only auto manufacturing facility in South Carolina — is crucial to the company’s bottom line as it competes to keep costs down amid heated competition from Audi and Mercedes.

And to the detractors who don’t believe foreign cars can be of economic benefit to the U.S. or its respective states, listen to this.

BMW has, since 2012, infused $7.3 billion into the Spartanburg facility, making it one of the company’s most productive plants in the world. That’s about seven times the amount Volkswagen AG spent on its Tennessee plant, Bloomberg reports. Additionally, the factory will employ 8,800 people by 2016, and eventually, BMW wants to get production up to 450,000 units per year from the 50,000 cars that it first produced when it opened in 1994.

“At the time, we thought 100,000 was a big number,” Harald Krueger, BMW’s head of production, told Bloomberg. “If you look back, you realize how important this step turned out to be.”

BMW will begin producing the X7, its largest SUV yet, at the facility, alongside virtually every other SUV in the company’s portfolio. About 70 percent of those units are exported to more than 140 countries. But as beneficial as BMW’s presence is to South Carolina, it’s certainly a mutually beneficial relationship: BMW’s labor in the United States is about 47 percent cheaper than the equivalent labor in Germany, according to Bloomberg.