Preproduction of BMW Group’s full-size X7 Sports Activity Vehicle has begun at its Upstate plant in Spartanburg County.
The automaker said this step signifies the beginning of a 12-month countdown to the official presentation of the production model at the end of 2018.
BMW said the preproduction model will undergo a variety of tests under partially extreme conditions.
“We are proud to produce the BMW X7 here in Spartanburg, the home of our X models,” said Knudt Flor, president and CEO of Spartanburg County-based BMW Manufacturing Co., in a statement. “This is a very special vehicle, and our employees are looking forward to yet another member of the X family.”
Flor noted the addition of the X7 will bring the more than 6 million-square-foot Upstate plant’s production lineup to five vehicles.
Already BMW’s largest plant worldwide in terms of volume, BMW Manufacturing Co. represents a nearly $8 billion investment and is the assembly hub of the company’s X3, X4, X5, and X6 models.
About 9,000 people work at the plant, which produces about 1,150 vehicles per day and was on track to assemble about 400,000 vehicles in 2017.
In 2016, the plant produced 411,000 cars, the highest annual number since it began production in 1994. It exported a record 287,700 of those vehicles, about 70 percent of its total volume, through the Port of Charleston to customers in 140 markets worldwide, making it this country’s largest exporter of automobiles.
BMW announced in June it will invest an additional $600 million in the plant and create 1,000 jobs during the next five years.
The plant’s production network includes 235 suppliers in the U.S. Forty of those companies are in South Carolina.
According to a 2014 economic impact study by the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business, each job created in the plant results in four jobs created elsewhere in the state. That means the plant supports about 36,000 jobs in the Palmetto State.
BMW said the preproduction, or preseries, X7s are fitted with a camouflage wrap in order to conceal the vehicle’s final look.
The preproduction models serve to “secure and optimize” future series production, the company said. X7 preproduction is currently being done on the same assembly lines as the X5 and X6 models.
A specially trained team realizes the series production process for new modes at the plant and qualifies employees for future series production.
BMW said the preproduction X7s will be handed over to development department specialists for homologation, registration, and diverse driving tests in the desert of Death Valley, Calif., or in the ice and snow of Scandinavia.
The company said it anticipates releasing technical details about the X7, such as fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions, later this year.