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BMW gears up for X7

Capital X: If BMW gives the X7 the green light, it will be the fifth ‘X’ model to be built in the US alongside the X3, X4, X5 (left) and X6 SUVs.

US production expansion could mean BMW adds X7 large SUV to line-up

24 Mar 2014

BMW is reportedly days away from announcing production of a new X7 seven-seat large SUV rival for the Mercedes GL-Class, to be built alongside other ‘X’ models at its expanding South Carolina production facility.

The Wall Street Journal, citing people “familiar with the matter”, reported that the German car-maker is planning an expansion in the United States that would cost several hundred million dollars and include a third body shop to deliver the new model.

An official announcement by BMW executives that will detail the German car-maker’s investment plans beyond 2014 is scheduled for March 28, In the past two years, BMW has poured $US900 million ($A989m) into expanding the plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, so it can produce the forthcoming X4 crossover due in Australia in August this year.

Following the expansion of the plant, production capacity would reportedly increase from 300,000 to 400,000 vehicles a year, making it one of the biggest BMW factories in the world.

Other X models including the X3, X5 and X6 SUVs are built at the plant already, with about half of them exported to more than 130 countries including Australia.

The report suggests that while most of the X7s produced at Spartanburg would remain in the US, some would be exported to markets such as China, the Middle East and Europe.

Sales of seven-seat SUVs are also strong in Australia, although being a right-hand-drive market, it is unclear if production for markets such as ours is on the radar. More information from the Australian angle will emerge on March 28.

Should it get the go-ahead, the X7 will likely feature three seating rows for seven occupants. The X5 can be optioned with seven-seats, though the X7 will likely be a longer vehicle.

The potential expansion plan could give BMW a boost in the battle for the title of the world’s top-selling luxury car brand against arch-rivals Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen-owned Audi.

BMW came out on top last year with global sales of 1,655,138, followed by Audi with 1,575,500 sales, while Mercedes-Benz settled for third place with 1,460,000 units shifted.

Mercedes also builds vehicles in the US, with its Vance, Alabama plant producing SUVs and people-movers including the M-Class, R-Class and GL-Class.

The facility was recently expanded to accommodate production of its 2014 C-Class mid-size range.

Audi does not currently produce cars in the United States but by mid-2016 it will build its Q5 SUV at a new plant near Puebla City in Mexico.

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