It all started in June 1992 when BMW Chairman Eberhard von Kuenheim announced the company would build its first full production factory outside of Germany. BMW chose South Carolina as the location because of the deep water port of Charleston, its advanced technical college system and the state’s strong work ethic. Only two years later – September 1994 – the first BMW built in the United States rolled off the assembly line in Spartanburg County as hundreds of proud associates cheered.
Twenty-five years later, BMW Plant Spartanburg employs more than 11,000 people who build 1,500 BMWs every day. The current facility represents an investment of $10.6 billion that includes two massive body shops, two paint shops, two assembly halls and an elaborate logistics operation. Every day, the Spartanburg team produces five top-selling BMW X models and four Motorsport X models sold in more than 125 countries around the world.
Today at the BMW X3/X4 Assembly Hall, Knudt Flor, president and CEO of BMW Manufacturing, welcomed South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster, South Carolina Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt and other state and local dignitaries to celebrate the significant impact of the plant.
“This plant has been successful because of our people – their performance, passion and pride,” said Knudt Flor. “Over the past 25 years, we have had continuous investment, excellent facilities and the best equipment. What makes the difference is the spirit of our associates, their passion for excellence and the pride they have in their work.”
"In 1994, the first BMW produced in North America – a 318i – rolled off the company’s assembly line. That moment was a true game-changer for South Carolina,” said Governor Henry McMaster. “In the quarter century since, we have seen BMW spur economic development across the state. Now the largest BMW production facility in the world, BMW Plant Spartanburg continues to be a shining example of the premier workforce and manufacturing excellence that has become synonymous with South Carolina."
The economic impact of BMW Plant Spartanburg has been remarkable. A 2018 study by the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina estimated the annual economic impact of BMW Manufacturing on the U.S. economy, measured in terms of overall output, was $38.5 billion. The study also said that BMW Manufacturing operations in South Carolina support nearly 104,000 jobs across the United States.
Because it exports more than two-thirds of its product, the BMW factory makes a considerable impact on U.S. economic growth. BMW Manufacturing ships nearly 70 percent of its popular X models to customers in more than 125 countries. For five consecutive years, BMW has been the largest automotive exporter by value in the United States. Over its 25 years of production, the BMW plant has exported more than three million vehicles, with about 90 percent going through the port of Charleston, SC.
“Over the course of history, very few events take place that have the power and significance to transform an entire state,” said Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt. “An occurrence of that magnitude is rare and happened when BMW located its first North American manufacturing facility in Spartanburg County. Now 25 years and more than 4.75 million vehicles later, South Carolina is a global leader in the automotive industry. Today, we celebrate BMW’s anniversary in South Carolina and look forward to continued growth in the years to come.”
During the ceremony, Knudt Flor recognized the 25-year associates in the audience for their pioneering spirit during the plant’s “start-up” phase in 1994. Then, Mr. Flor and BMW associate Ryan Childers unveiled a specially-marked red, white and blue BMW X7 that displayed 25-year totals for vehicles produced, vehicles exported, investment and number of jobs.
“It’s incredible how BMW Manufacturing has transformed from a small Roadster plant to the largest BMW plant in the world,” said Childers, who drove the first BMW off the assembly line on September 8, 1994. “We take great pride in the accomplishments of the BMW Plant Spartanburg team over the past 25 years.”