A report by Greenville News says BMW expects its newly expanded Spartanburg plant to be running at near capacity in 2011. The strong demand for the X5 and the new production of X3 SAVs could are the driving factors.

Recently BMW completed a $750 million expansion and renovation, including new paint and body shops. The plant has also added production lines for the new 2011 BMW X3 which moves from the Magna Steyr plant in Graz, Austria.

Bobby Hitt, plant spokesman, said for Greenville News that by the end of the year, BMW plans to have hired an additional 1,600 con tract workers through MAU, bringing the total of on-site employees to 7,600. Peter Miles, executive vice president-operations for BMW of North America, said BMW is “very excited about the X3, which really is night and day” from the previous model.

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BMW plays an important role in the region and the jobs created within the plants and its suppliers is quite significant. The new X3 comes to add even more jobs. “It contributes to job growth,” Miled said, adding that 70 per cent of the production of the X3, X5 and X6 will be shipped overseas.

The plant plans to produce about 240,000 vehicles next year.

Furthermore, Miles says the Spartanburg plant is one of the most efficient factories in the world for BMW.

Expectations for the new X3 are high and Joe Wierda, X3 project manager for BMW of North America, said three big selling points are size, premium content and value improvements.

The 2011 BMW X3 has grown in size, similar to the first generation X5, offers a higher level of luxury, more options for the same price or less than the previous generation. On top of this, performance from its six-cylinder engines is another strong selling point.

The base prices for the two models offered initially in the US are $37,625 and $41,925. BMW’s base price for the X3 28i is about $2,000 less than the previous X3.

The efficient plant helps driving the prices down. According to Weirda, the new paint shop saves eight minutes per car in the paint process.

The use of landfill gases for about half of the plant’s power also helped because it has saved on electricity costs and that was passed along in the car price.

BMW expects its sales to increase in 2011, and Miles says that the economy will continue to slowly recover.

[Source: Greenville News]