Forbes reports BMW will expand production of its bestselling vehicle, the 3-Series sedan, to North America when it opens its newest plant an hour north of Mexico City in 2019.
The German automaker broke ground at its San Luis Potosí plant on Thursday June 16 and announced plans to invest $1 billion USD in the state-of-the-art facility. The 3-Series will continue to be built in Germany as the plant ramps up to an annual capacity of 150,000 units. BMW’s South Africa plant, which also makes the 3-Series, will switch to the X3 crossover once the Mexico factory opens.
“Mexico is a growing market with promising dynamics,” Oliver Zipse, BMW’s head of production, said at a ceremony attended by local government officials. “As a NAFTA country, it has direct access to a region with a considerable growth potential for premium mobility.”
Building the 3-Series sedan, which sold 94,540 units last year, could be an auspicious starting point for the new plant. The automaker’s largest plant, in Spartanburg, S.C., also cut its teeth on the sedan when it opened 22 years ago. Now it makes BMW’s crossovers and SUVs – the X3, X4, X5, and X6 – and will build the X7 three-row SUV, which will reach showrooms in 2018.
Mexico is a growth market for BMW; sales for BMW and its MINI brand have climbed 13% so far this year, on top of a 17% gain last year. As the world’s fourth-largest automotive exporter, the country is also home to several plants operated by other automakers, including General Motors, Volkswagen, Ford, Nissan, Daimler , Toyota, Honda, Kia, Mazda, and Fiat Chrysler. Economic development officials expect Mexico to manufacture more than 5 million cars in 2020, compared with 3.4 million last year.
“Mexico is a symbol for the benefits of free trade,” Zipse said. “Visionary politics have made Mexico the number one country in the world when it comes to free trade agreements.”
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