BMW’s new body shop will be twice as large as expected

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A new body shop at BMW Manufacturing Co. in Spartanburg County will be about twice as large as expected.

Site plans filed with the county showed the German automaker plans to add a second phase to the 675,000-square-foot facility under construction on the western end of its 1,150-acre campus.

The 608,000-square-foot addition will bring the body shop, post-expansion, to more than 1.2 million square feet, the size of the original production plant the company opened on the site in 1994.

Sky Foster, a spokeswoman for BMW Manufacturing Co., said the body shop is part of the $1 billion expansion announced in March 2014 aimed at boosting the plant’s production to 450,000 vehicles by the end of the year, increasing its workforce to 9,000 associates and adding the new X7 to its vehicle lineup.

“The entire body shop expansion, both Phase 1 and Phase 2, will eventually allow us to build all of our framed bodies-in-white in this one facility, including the new BMW X7,” Foster said.

On Thursday, the plant announced it had produced its 3.5 millionth vehicle. Its employees currently build about 1,400 cars per day.

The plant is the production hub for BMW’s Sports Activity Vehicle fleet, which includes the X3, X4, X5 and X6.

It produced a record 400,904 vehicles in 2015, ships its vehicles to more than 140 markets across the globe and is the largest BMW production facility in the world in terms of volume.

The company announced earlier this year it increased its exports through the Port of Charleston about 8 percent in 2015 to 280,000 vehicles, a total value of $9.8 million, making it the largest automotive exporter in the country.

Several other projects are part of the $1 billion expansion.

Foster said the company is in the process of adding 200,000 square feet to its assembly hall for the X5 and X6 to accommodate future growth, including the addition of the X7.

Last year, BMW constructed a “state-of-the-art” Combined Road and Environmental Simulation Test (CREST) facility at its analysis center on the site, she said.

The CREST facility contains a chamber that can simulate almost any road surface and climate condition.

“Our CREST chamber is BMW’s fourth, but it’s the only one in the Americas region,” Foster said. “Our X models and other BMW Group models are tested in this facility.  This new CREST chamber is an important factor in delivering premium quality vehicles to our customers.”

In 2015, the company built two indoor test tracks, one beside each of its assembly halls.

Foster said, at the indoor tracks, associates drive vehicles over a series of uneven surfaces, such as potholes, cobblestones, or railroad tracks, testing for any noises that might irritate customers.

She said the use of an indoor track eliminates interference from wind noise and inclement weather.

Foster said all construction related to the most recent expansion is underway or complete. She was not able to provide a specific date of completion for projects still under construction.

But local officials are already looking forward to the future.

“It’s hard to put into words the pride I feel with every announcement that BMW makes,” said Spartanburg County Councilman David Britt. “I have so much pride in the people of the Upstate that comprise BMW’s employees, suppliers and partners. We have proven we can do what we said we could do tenfold.”

Britt said it was a huge risk for BMW to build a plant in Spartanburg, but he feels that decision has been validated.

“We had a manufacturing reputation and pedigree unlike anything that existed anywhere else,” he said. “They’re not building potato chips. They’re making the finest cars in the world. I can’t even put it into words.”

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