BMW announces expanded US plant to build X7, plug-in hybrid X5 – Los Angeles Times

BMW has announced it will lumber into the full-size SUV game in the coming years with the introduction of an all-new model, to be called the X7.

In an announcement on Friday at its Spartanburg, S.C., plant, the German automaker said the three-row SUV would be produced at that facility for export around the globe.

“With the BMW X7, we are developing another, larger X model, which we will produce at our U.S. plant for our world markets – once again underscoring our commitment to the U.S.,” said Norbert Reithofer, chairman of BMW’s board of directors.

Currently, BMW’s midsize X5 — and its oddball four-door X6 crossover-coupe thing — sit atop the brand’s SUV lineup (though the automaker likes to refer to these as Sports Activity Vehicles, or SAVs). This means BMW is conspicuously absent in the high-end, full-size SUV — er SAV — segment, a place where automakers can reap big profits.

“I promise this SAV will also be highly fuel efficient while offering outstanding driving performance,”  Reithofer said. “It will be a true BMW.”

The X7’s main target would be the Mercedes-Benz GL, a popular full-size SUV that sold nearly 30,000 copies in 2013. Other competitors would include the Range Rover, Audi Q7 and Lexus LX 570.

No further details on the X7 — engine, design, or price — were announced, though V-8, V-6, and diesel powertrains are likely. The X7 will be built on a modified version of the platform that underpins the X5 and X6 cousins.

BMW made other news at the Spartanburg plant on Friday. The automaker announced it was investing $1 billion in the plant over the next two years to increase capacity for additional X models.

The move will allow BMW to boost production by 50%, to 450,000 vehicles a year, making the South Carolina plant BMW’s largest in the world. Another 800 jobs would be created by the investment, the automaker said.

Currently the X3, X5, X5 M, X6 and X6 M models are built at the plant. The new X4 — a sporty version of the X3 — started production on Friday and will officially debut to the public at April’s New York Auto Show.

BMW also confirmed that the all-new X5 plug-in hybrid it’s developing will also be built in Spartanburg. That model will jettison the current X5’s V-6 or V-8 engine in favor of a smaller, lighter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine that’s paired with an electric motor. Expect a production model to debut later in 2014.

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