BMW is juggling its global car-making plants in a move that's expected to clear the way for a new niche model to be made in Austria.There are at least four models new to BMW’s range pencilled into the forward model plan and any one or more of them could be built at the plant in Austria, currently home of the X3 soft-roader.Space at the plant in Austria becomes available around 2010 when the next-generation X3 switches to BMW’s plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina.Pre-empting any possible criticism of the Austrian plant, run by Canadian supplier Magna, that it may not have delivered BMW’s exacting standards, therefore prompting the production changeover, BMW has said that more work could be put its way from 2010.“We have been very happy with our relationship with Magna in Austria and there is a chance we might place production orders for future niche products there,” said a BMW spokesman.Up for grabs are the 8-series/Z8, a Merc SL competitor; the X1, a 1-series based junior 4x4; and a brace of MPVs , dubbed the F-series. The F3 is a 3-series-based five-seat people carrier, the F5 a 5-series-based seven-seater.None are yet confirmed for production, although all will slot into gaps in the BMW range.
Z4 comes home
At the same time, BMW is also keeping its options open in Austria by bringing production of the slow-selling Z4 home to Germany.Production of BMW’s next –generation small sports car will be switched to Regensburg, home of the 3-series, including the convertible. “There are possible production synergies with other open-top models in our range,” said BMW.The move of the X3 to the US means that from 2010 all X-model BMWs sold in Britain will be built in the US and exported across the Atlantic. BMW has already announced that from 2008 the new X6, a sporty derivative of the X5, will be built in the US.To keep up with expectations of increased sales of 4x4 models, production capacity in the US is being expanded.Today Spartanburg can make up to 140,000 cars a year, although poor sales of the Z4 mean that last year it made only 105,000 cars, using just 75 per cent capacity. Car plants are typically designed to build at least 80 per cent capacity, otherwise they lose money.With the X6 and X3 coming, BWM will expand capacity in the US to “well over 200,000 cars”, BMW chairman Norbert Reithofer said at BMW's annual general meeting on Tuesday (15 May).