BMW Exports More From the US Than Any Other Automaker

By value, the Bavarian company shipped out more than $10.1 billion in vehicles from its plant in South Carolina last year.

Craig Cole Former reviews editor
Craig brought 15 years of automotive journalism experience to the Cars team. A lifelong resident of Michigan, he's as happy with a wrench or welding gun in hand as he is in front of the camera or behind a keyboard. When not hosting videos or cranking out features and reviews, he's probably out in the garage working on one of his project cars. He's fully restored a 1936 Ford V8 sedan and then turned to resurrecting another flathead-powered relic, a '51 Ford Crestliner. Craig has been a proud member of the Automotive Press Association (APA) and the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA).
Craig Cole
2 min read
BMW X3 M and X4 M - front
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BMW X3 M and X4 M - front

South Carolina-built BMWs come with a southern accent at no extra charge.


Quick quiz: By value, which automaker exports the most from the US? You'd probably guess GM or Ford, possibly even Stellantis, since the Detroit Three are our hometown manufacturers and have been around for ages. But would you be surprised to learn this title actually belongs to BMW?

Probably not if you, er, read the headline, but it's true. According to data from the US Department of Commerce released by BMW last week, the legendary Bavarian maker of luxury vehicles led the country is automotive exports by value… for the eighth consecutive year. In 2021, BMW exported nearly 258,000 vehicles from its manufacturing plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, a facility that's been cranking out automobiles for nearly three decades. The value of the SUVs produced there exceeded $10.1 billion in 2021, a significant chunk of change.

2020 BMW X7 M50i - interior
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2020 BMW X7 M50i - interior

Spartanburg, South Carolina, is where BMW builds the X3, X4, X5, X6 and X7 utility vehicles.

Andrew Krok/Roadshow

Spartanburg is where BMW assembles the X3, X4, X5, X6 and X7 utility vehicles. Last year, the factory, which employs more than 11,000 people, set a new production record, assembling 433,810 vehicles, a 20% increase over the previous year. This is only the fourth time it's crested the 400,000 mark. Of that total, nearly 180,000 X vehicles were sold in the US in 2021, representing 53.4% of all BMWs delivered here. Among 'Murican drivers, the X3 and X5 models were the brand's most popular nameplates.

If BMW needed to increase production in Spartanburg, the factory has the capacity to build up to 450,000 vehicles annually when pushed to the max, meaning there's a little bit of wiggle room if demand spikes, but not much.

As for export markets, Bimmers built in South Carolina travel all around the world. The top five countries they're shipped to are China, Germany (!), South Korea, Canada and the UK.

"I'm incredibly proud of our associates and the resilience they have shown the past year," said Robert Engelhorn, CEO of BMW Manufacturing in a release shared by the automaker. "This achievement demonstrates BMW's trusted partnership with this state and its continued commitment to the United States."

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