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By Bob Montgomery, Spartanburg Herald Journal
Not only is BMW adding 800 new jobs to its 8,000-employee workforce with a $1 billion expansion project announced in March 2014, but it will have 1,700 robots doing much of the work when the latest body shop opens. Work is underway on a 1.2 million-square-foot body shop at the 1,150-acre Greer campus that will equal the size of BMW's original production plant that opened in 1994. The current expansion project represents the plants fifth major upgrade and follows a $900 million expansion in 2012. When it starts production, it will enable the German car manufacturer to boost its production capacity to 450,000 vehicles a year — up from 400,904 vehicles in 2015. Spartanburg County Councilman David Britt said no one could guess in the early 1990s when he helped lure BMW to Greer that the facility would double in size by 2016.After 25,000 textile jobs were lost in the 1970s through the 1990s, BMW was able to hire many of those displaced workers, he said.“BMW has not only changed Spartanburg and the Upstate forever, it saved us from the collapse of the textile industry and put us on a world stage,” Britt said. “We build the finest car in the world.”BMW spokeswoman Sky Foster said 70 percent of BMW's production is exported to more than 140 global markets, making South Carolina the largest automotive exporter from the United States to the world by value, estimated at $9.8 billion last year. Last month, BMW Manufacturing produced its 3.5 millionth vehicle in South Carolina — an X4Drive20i sports activity coupe shipped through the Port of Charleston and delivered to a customer in Fuyang, China.