How BMW Became the Largest Exporter of US-Manufactured Autos

In 2017, 1.98 million passenger cars and light trucks built in the United States were exported. By dollar value, the exported vehicles accounted for $57.04 billion of U.S. international trade, and the largest manufacturer component of that total came from German automaker BMW.

BMW’s X-model sport utility vehicles (X3, X4, X5, X6 and later this year X7) are built at the company’s manufacturing facility in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The plant exported 272,346 units last year with an approximate dollar value of $8.76 billion, or 15.4% of the year’s U.S. export total value. BMW exported more than 73% of the 371,284 X-models built at Spartanburg last year, and the rest were sold in the United States.

While it’s difficult to find recent data for U.S. automakers, the latest available data for Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) indicates 2013 exports totaled more than 380,000 units. General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) exported 233,145 vehicles in the same year. Data for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. (NYSE: FCAU) is not comparable. In 2014, BMW exported nearly 250,000 vehicles from its Spartanburg plant.

Germany is the world’s largest exporter of vehicles, based on dollar value. In 2016, nearly 22% of the total value of all cars exported from every country — $151.9 billion of the total $698.2 billion — flowed into German makers BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen. U.S. automakers rang up $53.8 billion sales to rank third behind Japan with $91.9 billion in export sales.

BMW’s exports from the United States range in price from an X3 beginning at an manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of $42,650 to $62,950 for an entry-level X6. The soon-to-be-available X7 is estimated to command a starting price of around $70,000. Based on BMW’s 2017 shipments, the average wholesale price of a vehicle shipped from Spartanburg is more than $32,000, which is not far below the average retail price for a new car purchased in the United States last year.

That’s how much BMW’s brand is worth.

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