In 1994 the first 3 Series BMW came off the line at BMW’s first US production facility located in Spartanburg County, South Carolina. BMW Spartanburg has built a variety of cars since then but its time building the 3er was short lived. The Z3, E86 Z4, and X5 were built and assembled at the factory with many locally sourced components.
The Z4 is being built in Germany now but newest generation X3, which just coincidentally shares many of its underlying bits with the next generation 3 series has made the move to Spartanburg from its previous contract build location in Austria. This new X3 is going to open the door for the US buyer to be able to customize their car in more ways than has ever been offered stateside, but that is not the whole story.
BMW continues as part of their Strategy Number One to look for ways to streamline production, keep costs down and look for other avenues of revenue. We have seen the component sharing between the newest 7, 5 and 5 GT already as a way to help keep design costs in check and to help create economies of scale for components that would otherwise be limited in number. Earlier this year BMW announced a diesel engine deal with Carbon Motors (an expensive car for the Police that will never happen more than likely) but even more noteworthy was the recent deal between BMW and SAAB with BMW supplying the engines to the 9-3. These examples show that BMW is dead set on following this strategy and we can expect similar occurrences in the future.
As an independent and relatively small vehicle manufacturer BMW must think and do things outside the box to stay viable, something they have done well we might add. Thinking way outside the box is where they may be headed. While BMW has built vehicles in the US since the mid 90s, those vehicles have always been powered by engines produced in Germany, but that may change. We have heard some unconfirmed rumors that BMW is actively seeking an engine manufacturing facility within the NAFTA region to supply US built vehicles with. There are also some that say BMW with the move of the X3 and its shared F30 3 Series derived architecture have made it awfully easy to begin building US built 3 Series cars again; this time they may be North American powered as well.
BMW building engines in the NAFTA zone makes sense as a way to keep costs down from a shipping standpoint and due to the huge difference in currency values between the dollar and euro. Building the 3 Series in the US also makes sense for the same reasons- although many US cars are already built outside Germany in Roslyn, South Africa (where it is even cheaper to do business). Whether or not either of these scenarios happens is still anyone’s guess but they are intriguing if you view them from the eyes of BMW rather than as an enthusiast.
The question remains if building an entire vehicle in the US, with it only being designed in Germany would tarnish BMWs image with the general public. We doubt it as there are some people that think the “B” in BMW stands for British.