BMW’s Spartanburg County plant remains nation’s top auto exporter in 2017

For a fourth consecutive year, Spartanburg County-based BMW Manufacturing Co. was the nation’s largest automotive exporter in 2017. Its total exports for the year were valued at $8.76 billion.

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BMW X models produced in the Upstate wait to be loaded for export at the Port of Charleston. Photo courtesy of BMW Manufacturing Co.

For a fourth consecutive year, Spartanburg County-based BMW Manufacturing Co. was the nation’s largest automotive exporter in 2017.

The automaker announced Tuesday, Feb. 13, it exported 272,346 vehicles from its plant near Greer, with about 87 percent of those cars shipped through the Port of Charleston.

Its exports were valued at $8.76 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, confirming the plant as the country’s top automotive exporter by value.

“BMW X models manufactured in South Carolina continue to be a major contributor to the BMW Group’s success,” said Knudt Flor, president and CEO of BMW Manufacturing Co., in a statement. “Plant Spartanburg’s achievement as the country’s leading automotive exporter demonstrates BMW’s trusted partnership with this state, its contribution to the U.S. balance of trade, and its commitment to the United States.”

In comparison to 2016, the number of vehicles exported from BMW’s Upstate plant, which is the hub of production for its X3, X4, X5, X6, and soon-to-be X7 models, decreased by about 5.3 percent in 2017, down from 287,700.

The value of those exports decreased by about 8 percent during the past year, compared with $9.53 billion in 2016.

Export numbers for 2017 reflected a 10 percent decrease in the plant’s production to 371,284 vehicles during the year, compared with 411,171 in 2016.

BMW officials attributed the production decrease to the introduction of BMW’s new X3 during the year and a four-week shutdown of its X5 and X6 assembly hall.

The company said the remaining 13 percent of X models shipped from the plant in 2017 to 140 markets worldwide were exported through five other ports in Savannah, Ga.; Brunswick, Ga.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Miami; and Everglades, Fla.

“BMW is a leader in automotive manufacturing and driver of both import and export volume growth of the Port,” said Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the S.C. Ports Authority, in a statement. “As customers of both Inland Port Greer and the Port of Charleston, BMW’s multiple expansions have been exciting opportunities for the Port, and we value our role in its international supply chain.”

The state Department of Commerce announced Tuesday that South Carolina’s export sales grew to $32.2 billion in 2017, a 2.9 percent increase compared with $31.3 billion in 2016.

It was the eighth consecutive year of record-setting export sales growth for the Palmetto State, the agency said.

U.S. Department of Commerce data showed the state led the nation in the export of both vehicles and tires in 2017.

The state accounted for 16 percent of the country’s passenger vehicle and 31 percent of its tire exports fueled by several companies, including Greenville-based Michelin North America.

“As the nation’s leader in the export sales of completed passenger vehicles, South Carolina accounts for more than 16 percent of the total U.S. market share,” said S.C. Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt, in a statement. “This figure perfectly depicts the state’s unmatched global connectivity and status as a major player in the global automotive industry.”

“The Palmetto State has a long and rich history in international trade,” Hitt said in a statement. “One time a leader in the export of rice, indigo, and cotton, we now export a more diverse group of products, including complex items, such as cars, planes, and major household appliances. Moving forward, the continued growth and diversification of our trade activity will be critical.”

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