BMW will require at least 14,000 additional tons of flat-rolled steel each year for body and major structural components going into the manufacture of the X5 sport activity vehicles once the automaker wraps up a $300-million expansion program at Spartanburg, S.C.

The additional steel sheet requirements could be as high as 25,000 or 30,000 tons annually, according to company sources.

Plans for the additional production space and equipment were first reported six months ago.

The ramp up is positive news for the transplant automaker's steel suppliers, including AK Steel Corp., Middletown, Ohio; Ispat Inland Inc., Chicago; LTV Steel Co., Cleveland; and U.S. Steel Group, Pittsburgh. The Spartanburg subsidiary of German automaker BMW AG is expected to use the expansion in more ways than one, including increasing the number of X5 vehicles built at the site by 25,000 to 50,000 units annually.