BMW is to invest 15 million euros expanding its Thai assembly plant to make the latest 7-series.

The plant in the Rayong province, also home to a GM facility that builds Chevrolet, Holden, Subaru and Alfa Romeo-badged models, currently assembles some 3-series models using a mix of CKD kits shipped in from Germany and locally-sourced componentry.

Expansion plans will increase current capacity to about 6,000 units a year, with that volume tentatively planned to be reached in 2005.

The plant could, however, eventually churn out 10,000 units annually but just-auto understands that the paint shop would have to be expanded to cope with that volume.

Thailand’s Auto Alliance Mazda/Ford pickup plant, a Mitsubishi pickup plant and the GM Rayong plant all export most of their output and the BMW plant will also now export a proportion of its cars: the new 7-series will, from 2003, be shipped initially to Indonesia.

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The Rayong plant will also be BMW’s first outside Germany to build the 7; at one time the Munich car maker’s South African plant was often first to put a new model into overseas production.

That plant, in Rosslyn, now concentrates on 3-series export models.