BMW’s Spartanburg, South Carolina, factory built its five millionth car in June 2020. It reached this milestone 26 years after manufacturing its first vehicle, and less than three years after crossing the four-million mark.
The milestone car is an X5 M Competition painted in Toronto Red and powered by a 617-horsepower, 4.4-liter V8 engine. Although X5s sometimes travel thousands of miles after driving off the Spartanburg assembly line, this head-turning example will lead a much quieter life. BMW will keep it at the factory and add it to its growing collection of historically significant cars. It will live under the same roof as the first car produced in the facility, an E36-generation 318i painted white and signed by the men and women who made it.
BMW opened the plant in 1994. The one millionth car, a Z4 M Roadster, was finished in February 2006. It took the German company six years to add another million cars to the tally, and the three millionth car, an X5 M, was completed in March 2015. The fourth millionth car (an X3 xDrive M40i) roared to life in 2017.
Spartanburg is a significant piece of BMW’s production network. It produces high-profit models like the X3, the X4, the X5, the X6, and the X7. Some are also manufactured elsewhere, including the X3 and the X5, but the current-generation X6 and the X7 are built in South Carolina regardless of whether they’re headed to a buyer in Los Angeles, Munich, Moscow, or Cape Town. Over half of the cars BMW sells in the United States are built here, yet Spartanburg exported nearly 70% of the vehicles it made between 2010 and 2019. It manufactured 411,620 vehicles in 2019, a figure that earned BMW the distinction of being the largest automotive exporter by value (about $9.6 billion) in America.
“BMW has long considered the United States to be our second home, and we are proud to say America is home to the biggest BMW plant in the world,” concluded Bernhard Kuhnt, the president and CEO of the firm’s American division. At this rate, Spartanburg will build its six millionth car before the summer of 2023.