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BMW's South Carolina plant ramping up to 240,000 vehicles yearly

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The BMW Manufacturing Co. plant in Spartanburg will boost production over the next five years from its current 140,000 vehicles to 240,000 vehicles annually, the company said Thursday.

The firm had said in May that it intended to increase production at the Spartanburg plant to more than 200,000 units annually to shield itself from the weaker U.S. dollar and meet potential market growth in its biggest single market, the United States.

Officials didn't say at that time exactly how many more vehicles the company planned to make. The Munich-based company publicly detailed its plans in a statement by chief executive Norbert Reithofer released Thursday in Germany.

Robert Hitt, a spokesman for the company in South Carolina, said it isn't yet clear whether the additional production will result in any new jobs at the Spartanburg plant.

``We are deeply engaged in the planning and technological preparation at this point, so today would not be the day to announce any such adjustments of that type,'' Hitt said.

The Spartanburg facility currently produces BMW's X5, which the company calls a ``sports activity vehicle,'' and also has turned out the Z4 sports car, M Roadster, Z4 Coupe and M Coupe.

Hitt said BMW also plans to start production in 2008 of a four-door X6 ``sports activity coupe'' at the Spartanburg plant.

The company's next-generation vehicle, the X3, will start being built in Spartanburg in 2010, he said.

The United States is BMW's single biggest market, and last year it sold 113,000 X3s, with 27 per cent of those going to U.S. buyers. The X3 also is produced at a plant in Austria.

Unfavourable exchange rates, particularly for the dollar and yen against the euro, can hurt manufacturers by making their goods more expensive in other markets. But producing cars in the United States, where both costs and revenues are in dollars, allows the company to insulate its U.S. sales from currency swings.

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BMW's South Carolina plant ramping up to 240,000 vehicles yearly
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