It’s no clandestine feat that the automotive manufacturing industry has skyrocketed over the last few decades in South Carolina.
BMW Group’s Plant Spartanburg has a lot to do with that success — and they released a new study showing just how massive the plant’s annual economic impact is on the state — remaining a significant economic driver for South Carolina, since its inception in the early 1990s.
According to the study conducted by the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina, the annual economic impact of the Spartanburg plant totals approximately $26.7 billion, which reflects all goods and services produced in the state both directly and indirectly. In addition to that, the plant supports nearly 43,000 jobs across the state — which accounts for 4.8% of all manufacturing jobs in South Carolina — making it one of the highest employment multipliers in the state, equaling $3.1 billion in salaries and wages.
“BMW has had a tremendous impact on the state,” said Joseph Van Nessen, research economist at the University of South Carolina. “Their arrival in 1992 transformed the Upstate and South Carolina while creating an export-oriented automotive manufacturing cluster that has become one of the state’s fastest-growing industry sectors.”
Since 2017, the total number of jobs created increased by an average of 4.3% per year, which is more than three times the state average over the same period. From 2011-2021, the state’s automotive manufacturing industry increased more than 167%, according to the study, which is more than any other state in the Southeast.
As of 2023, the plant produces more than 1,500 vehicles per day and regularly utilizes more than 500 South Carolina-based suppliers, including more than 40 Tier 1 suppliers. In October, the plant announced its seventh major expansion — a $1.7 billion investment — to prepare for the production of electric vehicles and to build a $700 million high-voltage battery assembly plant in Woodruff. This most recent investment will continue to increase the plant’s economic impact in the future.
“Since coming to South Carolina 30 years ago, BMW has created thousands of sustainable jobs, invested in our people through training, and contributed to educational, cultural and civic programs across the state,” said Robert Engelhorn, president and CEO of BMW Manufacturing. “Our success is due to the dedication of our associates, the support of our supplier network, and the collaboration and cooperation with state and local officials. Now we are moving forward as we begin the transformation of our plant toward battery-electric vehicles.”
By 2030, the BMW Group will build at least six fully electric models in the United States, with its first set to release in 2026. Plant Spartanburg, the only U.S. BMW factory, is the company’s largest.
The group chose Envision AESC as its battery cell partner and will produce newly developed round lithium-ion battery cells, which were specifically designed for the sixth generation of BMW eDrive technology and will be used in the next generation of electric vehicles. The annual capacity of the battery cell factory will be up to 30 gigawatt hours.
The group also opened a new technical training center in October, which is being used to promote creative learning, foster innovation and advance technical skills of its workforce. Inside the $20 million, 68,000-square-foot building are areas for hands-on vocational training as well as advanced training in robotics and controls, mechatronics, automotive technology and electrification.
Additionally, a new press shop is under construction, in which BMW Group invested more than $200 million to construct the 219,000-square-foot shop on the plant site. The investment, which was announced a little more than a year ago, will provide more than 200 new jobs. The shop will start production next summer and will take raw coils of steel, cut them into blanks, and stamp sheet metal parts for future BMW models.
“BMW’s impact on South Carolina is far reaching,” said S.C. Secretary of Commerce Harry M. Lightsey III. “The company’s foresight in recognizing the possibilities of manufacturing automobiles here has contributed to our success as an automotive powerhouse. I look forward to seeing how BMW and South Carolina continue to impact the future of the automotive industry.”