BMW’s biggest plant in the world is about to get a little bigger.
The German automaker said Monday it will add another 1,000 jobs and invest $600 million in the plant as part of a plan to boost annual production to as many 450,000 vehicles annually.
“It’s a great day for us here in Spartanburg and South Carolina and for the BMW group,” said Harald Kruger, chairman of BMW. “The workforce will be well above 10,000 people, which is, in my view, clearly a symbol of success.”
BMW’s facility in Spartanburg is already the company’s largest final assembly plant in the world, employing more than 9,000 workers and building more than 411,000 SUVs and crossovers last year.
Kruger marked the 25th anniversary of announcing plans to build the South Carolina plant by unveiling the newest version of the X3 crossover utility vehicle.
While BMW’s investment and plan to hire more workers in South Carolina will be welcomed by President Donald Trump, the move comes just months after the president blasted German automakers as part of a broader complaint about Germany’s trade surplus with the U.S.
“You can build cars in the United States, but for every car that comes to the USA, you will pay a 35 percent tax,” Trump told the German newspaper Bild earlier this year.
Kruger denies BMW is spending and hiring in South Carolina as a way to placate the president.
“There was already planning before [Trump’s election], because we have long-term strategic planning, but also the success of the U.S. market is something that was, for us, important,” he said.
Kruger, along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, met with Trump in March and he is well aware these are delicate times for automakers in the U.S.
The president is moving to renegotiate NAFTA and many are wondering what type of tariff, if any, could be slapped on autos imported from Mexico and Canada. Last year, those two countries supplied about 20 percent of the 17.5 million vehicles sold in the U.S.
Under pressure from the White House, Ford has scrapped plans to build a new small car assembly plant in Mexico, but BMW is not changing its expansion plans south of the border.
The company is building a final assembly plant in San Luis Pitosi, Mexico, scheduled to open in 2019 that will manufacture the company’s most popular vehicle, the 3 Series.
As for a possible tariff on imported vehicles, Kruger is not worried after his conversations with the president.
“We explained, when I was in Washington with the German chancellor and had the opportunity to talk about our business here in Spartanburg, and the president acknowledged how successful our operation is here in South Carolina,” said Kruger. “I could argue and explain that one to the president that our success is based on free trade because we are the biggest net exporter for the United States.”