BMW put down roots in the state 25 years ago, and since then, automakers like Mercedes-Benz, Honda and Volvo have built major operations in the South Carolina. In addition, many of the world’s leading tiremakers, such as Michelin, Bridgestone and Continental, also call South Carolina home, making the state number one in tire exports in the U.S. Add to that a number of off-road vehicle manufacturers and auto parts suppliers and it’s easy to see why the industry has a strong economic impact on the Palmetto State.
More than 66,000 workers are employed at more than 400 auto industry-related companies across the state. A pro-business environment, skilled labor force and excellent transportation access are just a few of the factors behind South Carolina’s automotive success. The state has seen a steady increase in auto industry growth that includes new companies in auto innovation, such as supportive technology centers – including the Clemson University Center for Automotive Research and the International Transportation Innovation Center – that have emerged to assist in designing and building products for the future.
The roots of the auto industry in South Carolina are grounded in a strong tradition of manufacturing in the state, says Catherine Hayes, executive director of the South Carolina Automotive Council.
“The state’s incentives and positive business climate are very conducive to the automotive industry,” says Hayes.
Global Names, Local Growth
BMW may well be the anchor of the auto industry in South Carolina – and has invested around $8.1 billion since it first called it home in 1994. Its massive Spartanburg-Greer plant has gone through five major expansions throughout recent years, and employs more than 9,000 people on-site.
“The BMW Group’s success story in the U.S. would not have been possible without the open arms and warm hearts of the people and elected officials in the great state of South Carolina and the surrounding region,” says Harald Krueger, chairman of the board of BMW AG. “Our relationship with South Carolina has been built upon decades of professionalism, mutual trust and respect, and goes far beyond just building great cars.”
Last year, the automaker built a record 411,171 vehicles, making the Greer plant BMW’s largest producer globally. While at its Spartanburg BMW AG plant, it also plans to invest another $600 million to start assembly on its X7 large crossover. The expansion will create an additional 1,000 jobs at the plant by 2021.
The BMW plant in South Carolina is the nation’s leading exporter of vehicles, with most going out from the Port of Charleston.
Expansion and relocation is also part of many global automakers in the state. Volvo announced construction of a $500 million manufacturing facility in Berkeley County – the carmaker’s first American manufacturing facility. Volvo estimates the plant will create more than 2,000 jobs when it is completed in late 2018. In addition, Mercedes-Benz Vans, a division of Daimler, is investing more than half a billion dollars, establishing a new, full van manufacturing plant in Charleston County. The new production plant in North Charleston will supply the North American market with the next-generation Sprinter, ultimately creating 1,300 new jobs.
Freightliner and Others Announce Major Expansions
Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. of Gaffney is constructing a new 200,000-square-foot logistics facility as part of a $22.7 million expansion. The company, a division of Daimler Trucks North America, makes chassis for buses and will use the logistics center to assemble frame components. The Gaffney facility makes about 24,000 chassis annually and has 900 employees.
“South Carolina provides a very business-friendly and -supportive environment,” say Bryan Henke, manager of product development for Freightliner. “They are partners in our success and stability, making sure we can continue to make high-quality products utilizing a highly skilled workforce at affordable prices.”
South Carolina is the leading producer of tires in the nation with the nation’s largest tire companies operating in the state with more to come. Wanli Tire Group, a Chinese tire manufacturer, plans to invest
$1 billion in a plant in Orangeburg County, and the company said it will eventually employ 1,200 workers. Wanli would be the sixth international tire company in South Carolina.
Knapheide Truck Equipment Company is opening a new manufacturing facility in Charleston County. The plant will create 63 new jobs. The new facility will outfit part of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and Metris vans.
The continuous expansions and growth in the auto manufacturing sector and the state has solidified South Carolina’s spot at the top of the auto manufacturing sector.