BMW Manufacturing Corp. ended the year 2000 with 1,125 more ‘associates’ (workers) and 83,672 vehicles built at the South Carolina factory, and 2001 already is shaping up to be another good year, the company reported today.

The 50,000th BMW X5 sports activity vehicle, which was a mahogany-coloured, six-cylinder model, rolled off the manufacturing line in mid January on its way to a Chattanooga, Tennessee dealership. And in its tracks are the 250,000th Z3, which should move off line in late February or early March and the 100,000th X5, which should be produced by end of summer.

The addition of 1,125 associates last year brings employment at the Spartanburg County plant to 3,898. To keep pace with customer demand for the X5 sports activity vehicle, another 300 workers will be added in 2001, and the factory will work four 10-hour days, increasing production time from 80 to 110 hours over six days each week.

BMW’s vehicle production will increase about 25 percent in 2001 with the building of more than 100,000 vehicles. Through the year 2000, the factory has built 313,790 vehicles since production began September 1994.

Calendar year 2000 has been a banner sales year for BMW throughout the world. BMW of North America, the BMW subsidiary responsible for sales in the U.S., surpassed all previous sales figures, selling 189,423 vehicles, an increase of 22 percent over 154,709 vehicles sold in 1999. In 1991, the last year before BMW announced plans to build a factory in America, BMW sold 53,000 units in the United States.

In addition to building vehicles and hiring more associates in 2000, BMW Manufacturing broke ground on a189,000 square-foot addition to the body shop, which will prepare the factory for future BMW models. The investment totals $US300 million, which includes construction and tooling.

Construction of the building is scheduled to be finished by spring. Then the lengthier installation of tooling and equipment begins.

BMW also completed a $US37 million, 90,000-square-foot automated warehouse/sequencing centre and a $US16 million, 18,000 square-foot information technology centre to house communications and data service systems.

The company has added a $US9 million additional stacker system to store painted bodies before they move into assembly, completed a $US4 million 1,000-space covered parking area to house finished vehicles for distribution and built a $US3 million 1,000-space associate parking area with pedestrian bridge located behind the factory, which will improve traffic flow around the plant and allow associates to park nearer their work areas.

BMW has also installed a $US500,000 packing system for new vehicles. The recyclable plastic cover prevents damage to the vehicle’s paint job during transit and makes the preservation with wax unnecessary.

Also, during 2000, BMW started building a $US3 million office area in the assembly department, which will increase space on the factory floor for parts. It is expected the offices will be operational by early summer.

When the $US300 million body shop expansion is completed, BMW’s investment in the South Carolina project will total more than $US2 billion.

Thirty-seven BMW suppliers are located in South Carolina within a few hours drive of plant, creating nearly 5,000 jobs. Twenty-seven of those 37 companies chose to place new North American operations in South Carolina to partner with BMW.

The Z3 roadsters and coupes, motorsport roadsters and coupes, and the X5 sports activity vehicle are built only at the South Carolina factory and are exported throughout the world.