Spartanburg Plant to Soon Become BMW's Largest Worldwide, 2014 Production Figures Show

BMW is currently on the rise, not only in new niches and segments but also as far as production plants go, the German group now having no less than 30 production sites in 14 countries, across four continents. Even if they’re not building new plants (though, as we speak, Brazil is getting a brand new one) they plan on expanding the existing ones, like the Spartanburg location that is bound to become the company’s largest worldwide.
BMW i8 on the production line in Leipzig 1 photo
Photo: BMW
That bit of news took us by surprise. For as long as the BMW Group existed, their biggest plant was located on home ground and since 1967 it was in good-old ‘Deutschland’, Dingolfing to be more precise.

Today, the record-holder has more than 17,500 employees and manufactured exactly 369,027 cars last year, managing to stay i the number one spot of an ad-hoc podium for BMW plants. Breathing down its neck, however, was the Spartanburg plant in the USA that even though has around half the number of employees, managed to put out no less than 349,949 units over the last 12 months.

That might seem to be just an impressive number at first but it does tell us a lot more. First of all, it is now foreseeable that the biggest plant in the world for BMW will be located outside Europe, in the US to be more specific, the company claiming that in a couple of years, the Spartanburg location will be capable of an yearly output of 450,000 units.

Second of all, the South Carolina-based site is only manufacturing SUVs and that shows an ever increasing demand for such cars wearing the BMW logo. Could that signal a shift in customers’ preferences? Absolutely! The core values of customers interested in the blue and white roundel are definitely changing.

It’s not only that but soon, the Chinese plants might also overtake domestic production as the numbers show.

Last year, the BMW-Brilliance venture that operates in China had an output of 287,778 units (that includes both the Dadong plant and the Tiexi one, both located in Shenyang) and that’s more than any German plant excluding the one in Dingolfing if we’re to look at the numbers.

The Regensburg plant had an output of 272,015 units while the Munich plant accounted for 228,126 cars of the grand total for BMW that went over 2 million cars sold in 2014. That raises a couple of question marks.

Could such a development of production outside of Germany hurt the quality of the final products?

In short: no. The thing is, while BMW is aiming to assemble cars closer to their markets to both reduce manufacturing costs and shipping times, they are careful about picking their suppliers and also about the sites where their engines are being built.

As a matter of fact, all the engines for BMW branded cars are still being manufactured in Germany or neighboring Austria at the Steyr plant.

A quick look shows that the Munich plant assembled 628,000 engines last year, in either 3, 4, 8 or 12 cylinder guises as well as high-performance 6-cylinder ones. It’s not the biggest output though in this regard.

The Steyr plant in Austria is the one that accounted for more than half the engines manufactured last year, at 1,057,970 units mostly because of the high demand in diesels. They are currently assembling 4 and 6 cylinder oil-burning engines for BMW cars as well as 3 and 4 cylinder diesels for MINIs along with 6-cylinder high performance versions for the M products.

Apart from these two, the only other location in the world that also makes BMW and MINI engines is the Hams Hall plant in the UK. Admittedly, most of them are used in MINIs and last year they accounted for 226,133 units.

At the moment, overall, Germany is still the biggest manufacturer of BMW-branded cars. However, that’s because it has four plants on its territory. Altogether, the Munich, Dingolfing, Regensburg and Leipzig plants have managed to build 1,080,602 cars in 2014, more than half of what the company managed to sale. And that’s only cars with the blue and white roundel on the bonnet, leaving MINIs and Rolls-Royces out of the question.

However, with the Spartanburg plant on its way to becoming the biggest in the world and China on the rise, how long could BMW keep the production of its mills stuck in Germany and Austria? Will they change their mind in the future? Hopefully that’s not going to happen any time soon but I can definitely imagine such a scenario in the future.
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