Year in Review: The top 6 manufacturing stories of 2018

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The Lockheed Martin/KAI T-50A is outfitted with an aerial refueling receptacle on its dorsal and a ground-based training system for pilots. Photo provided by Lockheed Martin.

BMW unveils next-generation X4 built in Upstate

In February, BMW introduced the second generation of the popular X4 crossover, one of four models produced exclusively at its Spartanburg plant. The 2019 X4 became available at dealerships in July. 

The new BMW X4 xDrive M40d. Photo courtesy of BMW Group.

BMW Group Chairman Harald Krueger dubbed 2018 the “year of the X.” As of 2018, more than 200,000 X4s had been assembled at the Upstate plant since the vehicle’s launch in 2014.

BMW’s Upstate plant remains nation’s top auto exporter

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

Marking four consecutive years, Spartanburg’s BMW plant was named the nation’s largest automotive exporter of 2017. The honor was announced and celebrated at the beginning of 2018. 

As of February 2018, the automaker had exported 272,346 vehicles from its plant near Greer, and 87 percent of those were shipped through the Port of Charleston. Its exports were valued at $8.76 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Potential automotive tariffs’ impact on BMW

Photo provided.

In July, business and civic leaders gathered in Spartanburg to discuss the Trump administration’s threatened use of automotive tariffs. Having a prospective 25 percent tariff placed on auto and auto-parts imports and possible counter-tariffs, the Upstate would have been greatly affected. 

BMW North America, its supply chain, their workers, and the regional economy at large were at stake. At the time, about 70 percent of the Spartanburg BMW facility’s production was exported to 140 world markets. The meeting showed that the entire auto industry was opposed to the tariffs.

Lockheed Martin’s Greenville facility plans major projects

A C-5M Super Galaxy (center) and T-50A trainer jet (front) sit on the tarmac at Lockheed’s Greenville facility. Photo provided.

Aerospace and defense company Lockheed Martin geared up in 2018 for four of the facility’s biggest projects to date. Lockheed was awarded a $7.6 million contract from the U.S. Air Force to perform “supply chain management, repair, and technical support services” on two C-5M Super Galaxies, with some work being done at the Greenville facility. The local facility also worked to become a hub for helicopter work, such as the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. 

Another big project was the preparation to house production of the F-16 Viper, a fourth-generation, multirole fighter jet. Being a potential location for the assembly of a different supersonic military aircraft, the T-50A, another goal of Lockheed’s Greenville facility was to secure the Air Force’s T-X contract in 2018.

Lockheed Martin produces new F-16 fighter jets

A rendering shows the F-16 Block 70 built for Bahrain at Lockheed Martin’s facility in Greenville. Photo by PRNewsfoto/Lockheed Martin Aeronautics.

In June, Lockheed announced the $1.12 billion contract from the U.S. government for the production of 16 advanced F-16 Block 70 Fighting Falcons for the Royal Bahraini Air Force. The Upstate 16-hangar facility at the South Carolina Technology and Aviation Center produced the fighter jets. As of June, a total of 4,604 F-16 Fighting Falcons were purchased by 28 customers worldwide, according to Air Force Technology.

Lockheed Martin loses bid for $9.2B contract

The Lockheed Martin/KAI T-50A is outfitted with an aerial refueling receptacle on its dorsal and a ground-based training system for pilots. Photo provided by Lockheed Martin

Lockheed’s Greenville facility lost a bid for the Air Force contract that involved the manufacturing of its next fleet of combat training aircraft in 2018. The contract, awarded to Boeing Co., would have brought an estimated 200 to 250 direct jobs in the Upstate. Lockheed was one of three companies seeking to build the T-38C replacement.

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