SUVs

BMW's big-boy X7 SUV enters preproduction phase

We're about a year away from seeing the final version.

BMW

Before a vehicle enters production in earnest, it goes through a process called preproduction. That's where BMW's all-new X7 is right now.

BMW announced today that the X7 has entered the preproduction phase at the automaker's plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Preproduction is the phase in between prototyping and production, which gives the automaker the chance to see how the vehicle fares on an assembly line, and it also gives one more chance to make sure there aren't any issues.

My, what big grilles you have.

BMW

Because the vehicle is not 100 percent ready for the spotlight just yet, BMW is wrapping its pre-pro X7s in camouflage, which will obscure its body lines and prevent spy photographers from getting a full shot of the car before BMW stages its unveiling. BMW claims the car will be unveiled in late 2018, likely around the Los Angeles Auto Show or the Paris Motor Show before it.

BMW's Spartanburg operation is huge. It built more than 411,000 vehicles in 2016, making it the largest plant BMW Group operates worldwide. A majority of what it produces is shipped overseas, but it's also responsible for BMW's SUV lineup in the US. Since its opening in 1994, BMW has built approximately 3.9 million vehicles there, and it employs about 9,000 workers, with another thousand slated for hire by 2021.

The X7 is loosely based on the Concept X7 iPerformance, a plug-in hybrid concept that existed to let the world know that BMW was finally serious about building a three-row crossover. BMW has been absent from this segment, but the Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class and Audi Q7 are probably happy about that. Too bad for them, because in a year's time, there'll be a whole new competitor to contend with.