GREER, S.C. -- BMW is celebrating its 20th anniversary of building cars in the United States by investing $1 billion in its plant in South Carolina to build two of its new X-series vehicles at the facility that ushered in a wave of foreign automakers building Southern plants.
The German automaker announced Friday it will produce the X7, a larger SUV with three rows of seats similar to a Cadillac Escalade. The company will also make the X4, a sportier version of the X3 coupe and plans to build a plug-in hybrid version of its small
er X5 SUV.
The $1 billion will be spent through 2016 at the plant in Greer, just down Interstate 85 from Spartanburg. BMW said it will hire 800 additional workers, bringing total employment at the plant to 8,800 people. The Greer plant will make 450,000 vehicles a year by 2016, becoming the largest of the company's 28 plants around the world.
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Almost 300,000 BMWs were made in South Carolina last year, and more than 2.6 million vehicles have rolled off the plant's assembly lines in the past two decades.
BMW first started making cars in South Carolina in 1994 after months of courtship from around the country. The plant has become as much of a part of the state's modern cultural landscape as the Shag and barbecue. The company said access to interstates, rail lines and the Atlantic Ocean were the state's biggest draws. About 70 percent of the vehicles made at the Greer plant are exported, most on ships out of the port in Charleston.
South Carolina was dealing with the slow death of the American textile industry and had almost no automotive industry to speak of outside Michelin tire plants when BMW arrived. Now there are automotive part makers and suppliers in 38 of the state's 46 counties. A University of South Carolina study found BMW and its suppliers are directly responsible for more than 30,000 jobs in the state, or more than 1 percent of South Carolina's total workforce.