BMW Manufacturing Co.’s three-year streak of record production has ended.
The Spartanburg County plant on Monday, Jan. 8, reported its final assembly numbers for 2017, which showed it produced 371,284 vehicles during the past 12 months, a nearly 10 percent decrease from a record 411,171 in 2016.
A plant spokesman cited two specific reasons for the slowdown that do not reflect a decrease in sales of models produced locally, but will likely benefit the plant and BMW customers in the long-term.
One of the reasons was the introduction of the German automaker’s next generation X3, which is one of the most popular of the four models produced at the plant—the global assembly hub of BMW’s light trucks division, including the X3, X4, X5, and X6.
“Anytime you release a new model that replaces and older one, there is a ramp up in production to ensure quality,” said BMW Manufacturing Co. spokesman Steve Wilson. “It causes the [assembly] numbers to go down.”
Wilson said the plant’s assembly hall for the X5 and X6 models was also shut down completely for four weeks in order to prepare for production of the new X7 and for future updates of the X5 and X6.
He said the introduction of the new X3 and the X5/X6 assembly hall shutdown did not impact the delivery pipeline to customers or dealerships.
According to BMW Group, about 70 percent of the plant’s output is exported to more than 140 countries worldwide.
Since 2014, the plant has reigned as the country’s leading car exporter in terms of value, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Wilson said he did not know if that status will change for 2017. The department should release its report in the coming weeks.
The plant, which began operations in 1994, represents an $8 billion invest by the BMW Group to date and provides jobs for about 9,000 people.
At 6 million square feet, the plant is BMW’s largest production facility in the world. This year, it celebrated the production of its 4 millionth vehicle since its inception.
Pre-production of a fifth model, the X7, has begun. The vehicle will go into production later this year and is expected to arrive at dealerships by the end of 2018.
A breakdown of the plant’s 2017 production showed its employees assembled 130,582 X3s, 48,463 X4s, 155,324 X5s, and 36,915 units of the X6.
As of Monday, BMW Group had not reported its final sales for December and all of 2017.
BMW of North America reported on Jan. 3 the total U.S. sales of the company’s X models for the year were 103,484, a less than 1 percent decrease compared with 103,943 in 2016.