BMW, VW achieve manufacturing milestones at U.S. assembly plants

A collection of news and notes from the contemporary car world

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The 5 millionth vehicle moves down the assembly line at BMW's plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina | BMW photo

Editor’s note: From time to time, we all need to tidy up our garages. In my case, it’s also time to share some news and notes that have accumulated in my inbox:

You don’t to be all that old to remember when BMW opened an assembly plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, or when Volkswagen did something similar in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

In BMWs case, it was 25 years ago, and if I remember correctly, the Z3 roadster was among the first BMWs produced in the USA. On June 4, 2020, the plant rolled its 5 millionth vehicle off the assembly line, a BMW X5 M Competition in Toronto Red Metallic powered by a 617-horsepower twin turbocharged V8 engine.

“More than half of the BMW vehicles we sell in the U.S. are built right here in the U.S., so we cannot overstate the importance of Plant Spartanburg to our sales network,” said Bernhard Kuhnt, president and chief executive of BMW of North America.  “BMW Group has long considered the United States to be our second home and we are proud to say that the U.S. is in fact home to the biggest BMW plant in the world.”

If you think he was happy, check out what the governor of South Carolina, Henry McMaster, had to say: “BMW changed the very fabric of our state’s economy when it decided to locate in South Carolina nearly three decades ago.” 

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Assembly plant staffer adds part under the hood of the 1 millionth vehicle produced at VW’s plant in Tennessee | VW photo

Meanwhile, on June 11, less than 300 miles due west, the 1 millionth Volkswagen emerged from the Chattanooga assembly plant, which opened in 2011. The milestone model was a 2020 Passat sedan, in Aurora Red Metallic paint. 

“It’s gratifying to me that our team is back to work and able to mark yet another key milestone since the opening of VW’s Chattanooga plant,” said Tom du Plessis, president and chief executive of Volkswagen Chattanooga. “Part of us getting back to normal is taking time to recognize these important achievements which are only possible because of the hard work and commitment of our exceptional team here in Chattanooga.”

Tesla: Most valuable car company on the planet

Just before the stock market tumbled late last week, Tesla climbed to more than $1,000 per share and became the move valuable automaker on the planet, surpassing Toyota in market capitalization. 

Tesla’s value was $190 billion. Toyota’s was $179 billion, although Bloomberg News noted that if you count Toyota shares held by the company itself, its total value is $210 billion.

For the sake of comparison, the market cap for other automakers was Volkswagen, $82.1 billion; Honda, $48.4 billion; Daimler, $45.3 billion. Next were Ferrari at $40.8 billion; BMW at $40.5; General Motors at $37.9; SAIC Maxus (of China) at $29.8; and Ford at $24.3.

Interesting that U.S.-based truck-maker Nicola followed Ford and was ahead of Hyundai, Fiat Chrysler, Nissan and all the rest.

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When a Rolls-Royce is and isn’t

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars issued a news release last week to clarify any confusion about itself and Rolls-Royce PLC.

Basically, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars is a wholly owned subsidiary of the BMW Group. Rolls-Royce PLC is owned by Rolls-Royce Holdings and is an industrial technology company that works in aerospace, military, shipping and in the supply of power systems, including nuclear energy.

Motor Cars employs 2,000 people; the PLC has 52,000 employees.

Pininfarina designs more than motor vehicles

Pininfarina incorporating social distancing monitor technology into architectural designs | Pininfarina illustration

Pininfarina might be best known for its amazing automotive designs, but the company has joined with Blimp to create technology that analyzes peoples’ movement and monitors and verifies that social distancing is being practice in airports, rail stations, offices, production plans, retail outlets or wherever such guidelines are in place.

Blimp is a Milan-based startup specializing in artificial intelligence.

“According to the agreement reached by the two partners, Pininfarina will dress Blimp technology, integrating into its architectural and industrial design proposals.”

Added Silvio Angori, Pininfarina’s chief executive: “Design, which has the ability to innovate continuously while enhancing the lives of people in normal times, can provide the response to imagining a new future. Now, for the first time, Design also needs to be used to awaken feelings of protection. 

“The ‘humanization of tech’ will make people feel re-assured thus reflecting in the way we live, we move, we conduct business. Together with Blimp we can offer a solution that perfectly meets the needs of the ‘New Normal:’ designing new spaces and equipping them with digital measuring systems making people feel safer.”

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Transportation bill expires this fall

The Washington Post reports that Congress has only a few months to pass a new surface transportation act to replace the 5-year-plan that expires at the end of September. A replacement act introduced by the House majority emphasizes projects that reduce greenhouse gas, meaning mass transit and railroads.

In addition to fixing bridges and existing roads, money would be earmarked for cyclist and pedestrian safety. The bill also would mandate a pilot program to replace the gas tax with a miles traveled program.

“It’s really time to move America into the 21st Century” said House transportation committee chairman Peter DeFazio of Oregon. “We’ve been for too long living off the legacy of the Eisenhower era.”

The Trump administration is expected to offer its own legislation for consideration.

How did racing do in top-50 sports movies list?

In the aftermath of The Last Dance, a 10-hour documentary about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, Axios Sports offered up its “Top 50 of all time” list of sports documentaries.

Only two focusing on motorsports made the list. They were Bruce Brown’s On Any Sunday (rated 39th) and Senna (rated 6th).

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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

1 COMMENT

  1. Nothing to celebrate here. Foreign subsidized , NON -Union plants have simply taken advantage of an uniformed, threatened , workforce, to threaten very existence of hardworking US owned (half/half Chrysler) car companies.
    In addition, these foreign plants receive $$billions in US tax dollar subsidies for infrastructure.
    It’s a miracle ANY American cars and trucks are still in existence.
    PS..Not a big fan of Rust-Bucket Mercedes suv’s, nor anything VW.
    VW–Most corrupt corporation on EarthAND they used their stooges in Congress , to illegally intimidate honest Union Organizing attempts.
    Celebrate what?..Dishonest attacks on Union Members , plus, VW cars are always lowest quality, whether Brazil, Mexico or The South…

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