UPDATE2: 5.28.14 with Digital Rendering
Spartanburg is a crowning achievement of the BMW Group today, 20 years since the first US-built BMW rolled from this once-small South Carolina factory in 1994.
Today: the Ultimate Driving Machine is far more than a just a machine.
BMW has become a sentient being, born and raised on trustworthy US soil.
BMW today is a compelling human endeavor as well as one whose faith in the United States makes it the 'Ultimate Driving' employer, taxpayer and corporate citizen. But to most SC residents?
A global titan of a company we are giddy with pride to welcome into our lives and home state.
The BMW X7 was officially announced today at the Spartanburg facility, and is expected relatively soon with a large third row of seating. Model year prediction? Unknown. But from some hand signals from BMW's Chairman of the Board of Management Dr. Norbert Reithofer?
Our questions for the clearly-brilliant Dr. Reithofer?
How Soon (will we see X7)?
How Big (will X7 be)?
Answers? Nothing firm, but...
Very soon (12-months out at max, we estimate)
Very large. (At least a foot of extra cabin space for a big third row and still-big trunk, we estimate.)
This news is not just good for luxury-truck-owning families, or workers in this relatively humble Southern state -- Spartanburg's excellence is BMW's best defense against the continued Audi, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and Infiniti SUV onslaught into BMW's (second) home turf: America.
Sure, the first 2002 X5 might not have been the first luxury SUV. It might have missed the Jurassic Park 3 cameo of the ML320 from a few years before. But it was instantly the best, and is keen to hold that position.
Despite our broader speculation about a possible 1 series sedan, expansion of the BMW i brand into US manufacturing, and a few other kooky hypotheses: the big X7 news today from BMW was largely expected.
A foregone conclusion? Not exactly -- all of the coverage over the past week has been speculation based on informed sources. BMW is justifiably very excited about this announcement, but car guys might be a bit less jolly. Why? There has been no sight of the X7 so far.
These photos are the X5, but will have a large influence over the new, XXL version of the best-selling SAV on BMW books. Here are the key reasons the X7 is coming as a likely 2016 model year (as soon as calendar 2015 perhaps):
-- It makes total sense on American roads where the X5 is dwarfed inside by the standard GMC Yukon Denali -- to say nothing of the gargantuan Denali XL and Escalade ESV.
-- BMW agrees -- this car was originally to be launched with the second-gen X5 in 2008/2009, but was frozen due to unknown economic conditions that were beginning to bite around this time
-- This means the platform of the X5, and likely even the plant itself, it largely future-proofed and package-protected for the X7's stretch in length
-- Obviously obvious shopper needs: While the X5 can be had with an optional pair of rear jump seats from this year for the first time, it is not a true adult-able seven-seater just yet. Not in the same way as the bi General Motors SUVs above or even the Infiniti QX80. The X5 has no captains chairs in back yet, nor the overall size to keep a decent luggage area with all seats upright.
-- Names count: the X7 will immediately convey its seven-seater abilities from the moment it crosses the tongue. After all, seven is right there in the name!
So there you have it! The X7 is coming. It will look very, very similar to the all-new X5 seen above. Not wider or taller -- but perhaps as much as 30-inches-longer overall. All of that scale will come behind the front two seats.
For South Carolina and broader US investment? All good news as well.
The facts/figures are hugely impressive as well. Adding over $500 annually in plant investment this year and for 2015 will ramp output from today's 300,000 units to a maximum of 450,000.
Will this all these extra units be X7s? No -- the X4 will help on that front, and the world has long been clamoring for more X3s and X5 exports for years. More than even the 70-percent-plus-exported stats for the last five years running.
But my real question to some BMW Group board members? Can we replicate the success of Spartanburg nearby? Perhaps Columbia, South Carolina -- the self-styled Berkeley of the South? (Ed's Note: I just made that up.)
BMW i and Boeing already have a deep partnership in advanced composites out West. Guess who else is far and away South Carolina's industrial powerhouse? Boeing.
Dreamlifters and the Boeing facilities in Charleston are right on the smooth highways between Spartanburg and the Port of Charleston -- where all these stunning luxury BMW's line up with military precision for export to more than 80 other global markets.
Huge congratulations are in order to BMW Group for this achievement in South Carolina. So, the big news is coming before the actual car. If that must be, then so be it.
You do not see nearly the same enthusiasm from VW about Chattanooga or Mercedes-Benz in Tuscaloosa -- and this Spartanburg factory is not only a crown jewel for BMW, it is becoming a major thorn in the side of the global luxury juggernaut's arch-rival latest: Audi.
Stay tuned for all the latest news later today. I am typing this in advance -- and the official X5 Convoy's leave this hotel in just 40 minutes. Clicking save, showering... and wishing I had one of these rock-star assembly jobs with BMW Spartanburg....!
Official Details below from BMW.
BMW Group Expands its Commitment in the USA
Commits US $1 Billion investment by 2016; Extends X family with new BMW X7; Increases plant capacity 50% up to 450,000 vehicles; Creates 800 new jobs; Starts production of the new BMW X4; Celebrates 20 years of production in the USA
Spartanburg, South Carolina – March 28, 2014 1:00pm EDT/10:00am PDT…
Celebrating 20 years of production in the USA, Dr. Norbert Reithofer, Chairman of the Board of Management, BMW Group, today announced plans to invest US$ 1 billion in the company’s South Carolina plant: “We will expand the plant’s annual production capacity by 50% up to 450,000 vehicles by the end of 2016. Today’s capacity is around 300,000 vehicles.
This investment will also create an additional 800 jobs, increasing the total workforce to 8,800 on site.”
At the event held at the plant, Dr. Reithofer was joined by U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Penny Pritzker; South Carolina Governor, Nikki Haley; BMW Group Board member for Production, Harald Krüger; and President of BMW Manufacturing, Plant Spartanburg, Manfred Erlacher.
BMW X7 to be built at Plant Spartanburg
The additional investment will be used to increase capacity, which is necessary to meet strong global demand for BMW X models. “Plant Spartanburg was built to enhance and expand the BMW line-up, underscoring the BMW Group commitment to the United States” said Dr. Norbert Reithofer. “In addition to the X3, X5, X6, and the new X4, we are today announcing another all-new, larger X model to be manufactured exclusively at this plant for our world markets: the X7.”
Harald Krüger, Board of Management member for Production explained the important role of the US for the BMW Group production strategy: “The BMW Group strives for a good balance of growth among all markets and continents.
The Spartanburg plant is an important building block in our international network of 28 production and assembly facilities in 13 countries today and makes a vital contribution to profitable, globally-balanced growth.”
He continued: “Our US plant is the best example of our successful strategy of ‘production follows the market’. The state of South Carolina has supported us as a valuable and reliable partner throughout our 20-year involvement in the region – making the United States our second home.”
BMW Group in Spartanburg: largest U.S. automobile exporter
Norbert Reithofer: “We are expanding BMW Plant Spartanburg as our center of competence for production of BMW X models and broadening our product portfolio. This expansion means Spartanburg will have the largest production capacity of any plant in our global production network.
This plant already exports, on average, 70% of its annual production with a 2013 value of more than US$ 7.5 billion which, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, makes BMW the largest U.S. vehicle exporter to non-NAFTA countries.”
Since production began 20 years ago, in 1994, the Spartanburg plant has produced over 2.6 million vehicles for BMW customers around the world. Currently the BMW X3, X5, X5 M, X6 and X6 M are all produced at the plant. The event also celebrated the start of production of the all-new BMW X4. In the near future, a plug-in hybrid version of the BMW X5 will also be produced here.
BMW Group economic impact on South Carolina
In addition to its large-scale capital investments, a new study just released by the Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina, reports that the BMW Group has a US$ 16.6 billion annual impact on the state economy. Its presence in South Carolina supports more than 30,000 jobs throughout the state.
The study found that for every job created at the BMW plant, an additional three jobs are created elsewhere in South Carolina through the economic multiplier effect.
“This is the fifth expansion since production began 20 years ago and represents another major investment,” said Manfred Erlacher, President and CEO of BMW Manufacturing. “The increase in annual capacity, the number of models produced, and the number of jobs on site, reinforce the major role BMW is playing in the region’s economic vitality through technological innovation, environmental stewardship, and development of a highly skilled workforce.”
In 2013, a total of 297,326 vehicles were manufactured in Spartanburg, with 1,100 vehicles currently produced per working day. Total employment at the site reached 8,000 in March 2014.
BMW Group In America
BMW of North America, LLC has been present in the United States since 1975. Rolls-Royce Motor Cars NA, LLC began distributing vehicles in 2003. The BMW Group in the United States has grown to include marketing, sales, and financial service organizations for the BMW brand of motor vehicles, including motorcycles, the MINI brand, and the Rolls-Royce brand of Motor Cars; DesignworksUSA, a strategic design consultancy in California; a technology office in Silicon Valley and various other operations throughout the country.
BMW Manufacturing Co., LLC in South Carolina is part of BMW Group’s global manufacturing network and is the exclusive manufacturing plant for all X5 and X3 Sports Activity Vehicles and X6 Sports Activity Coupes. The BMW Group sales organization is represented in the U.S. through networks of 339 BMW passenger car and BMW Sports Activity Vehicle centers, 139 BMW motorcycle retailers, 119 MINI passenger car dealers, and 35 Rolls-Royce Motor Car dealers. BMW (US) Holding Corp., the BMW Group’s sales headquarters for North America, is located in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey.