GREER, SC - Production of the next BMW X3 is currently based in Austria but is moving to BMW Manufacturing Co.'s facility in Greer, SC next year, according to The plant is nearing completion of a $750 million expansion, including the construction of a second assembly facility and expansion of the paint shop. The X3 will be built in the new assembly area while the X5 and the X6 sports activity vehicles will be built in the original assembly area.

Although most BMWs built in the United States launch here first, the X3 will launch in Europe in late 2010, said Jan Ehlen, BMW spokesman.

BMW is launching three different SAVs - the X3, the X1 and the Mini - around the same time, he said. The launch dates were designed to release the vehicles in the best lineup for the U.S. market, BMW's largest worldwide market.

The U.S. launch will allow the company to offer up to four engine variants initially, making lower-priced versions available immediately. In the current economic situation, BMW doesn't want to introduce a $50,000 vehicle with only one engine, said Jim O'Donnell, president of BMW of North America.

Although BMW owned the segment when it introduced the BMW X3 in 2003-2004, current sales numbers in the United States are a couple of hundred units a month, Ehlen said. The company decided to reduce the numbers of vehicle imported to the United States until the switchover is made.

The new assembly facility will operate with a new ordering system that allows customers to make changes to orders up to five days before assembly begins.

"Before a car enters the plant, the customer has five days to change the order for the car," Richard Morris, BMW Manufacturing vice president for assembly, said during a tour of the new facility. "We want to build what they want. A customer can be a dealer or an individual. With cars built here for the international market, that customer is usually an individual."

Few U.S. customers order their vehicles, relying instead on dealers.

Originally posted on Automotive Fleet