- Associated Press - Thursday, March 17, 2016

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - Two million BMWs made in South Carolina have been exported, a milestone reached Thursday when a metallic gray BMW X-5 was driven aboard a green-and-white auto carrier ship at the docks in downtown Charleston.

The auto manufacturer opened its sprawling South Carolina plant in Greer back in 1994 and it is now the largest in the BMW manufacturing network. About 70 percent of the BMWs manufactured in the state are exported.

A group of South Carolina Ports Authority and BMW officials were on hand for a ceremony marking the milestone.

“BMW has become part of the fabric of this great state,” said Manfred Erlacher, the president of BMW Manufacturing. He said the gray BMW will be sold in Germany and the new owner will get a photo to commemorate Thursday’s event.

“From my side I can promise you two things,” he added. “Many more BMWs are coming and it won’t take 20 years for the next 2-millionth.”

State Ports Authority President and CEO Jim Newsome said the company has had a huge impact on South Carolina, directly employing 8,000, providing more than 20,000 jobs with automotive suppliers and investing $7 billion over the years.

It also led the way for other foreign automotive manufacturers to locate in the state.

Daimler AG is building its Sprinter vans at a plant in Ladson. Volvo Cars has a $500 million manufacturing plant under construction farther up Interstate 26 in Berkeley County. That plant is expected to eventually employ 4,000 workers.

Newsome said companies such as BMW and Michelin in the Upstate, and Boeing in the Lowcountry, have an impact on everything from the quality of life to education and health care.

“There is no substitute for mega-manufacturing and the impact on the state,” he said.

BMW, he added, “took a very bold step to be here.”

“It’s their largest plant today and I think that says a lot.”

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