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BMW to Launch Three-Row Crossover as Rolls-Royce Considers SUV Development

March 24, 2014

It looks like players in the small luxury crossover market will have new competition soon. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that BMW will invest several hundred million dollars for the expansion of its Spartanburg plant in South Carolina, where the seven-seat crossover X7 will be built.

On March 28, the company is expected to announce that it will add a new body shop to the Spartanburg plant to increase production capacity to 400,000 units annually. The latest addition is said to accommodate the production of the three-bench vehicle that will fill a gap in the brand’s crossover lineup.

The German automaker is due to make a “significant economic and product announcement” about the aforementioned plant on March 28, but no other details were given. BMW spokesman Kenn Sparks did not provide specific information about the upcoming announcement and said that until the announcement is made, everything is “all speculation.”

The carmaker currently produces 300,000 vehicles per year in the Spartanburg facility, and hopes to boost growth by 33 percent to remain the leader in global luxury sales.

“The U.S. will stay a market with great potential for us,” BMW Chief Executive Norbert Reithofer said. “This is why we are evaluating the possibility of increasing capacity in the U.S.”

BMW global production chief Harald Krüger told The Wall Street Journal that the South Carolina facility is “our world-wide competence center for the X-models.” The Spartanburg plant is where the brand’s X3, X5 and X6 crossovers are built. About half of the crossovers manufactured in the plant are exported to 140 countries.

The 2015 BMW X4, which will also be built in BMW’s only U.S. facility, will go into production this year.

While BMW is preparing for a new SUV, Rolls-Royce is contemplating making one of its own. BMW board member Peter Schwarzenbauer, who is in charge of the Rolls-Royce brand, told Top Gear that long-term independent studies suggested that half of the world’s auto market will be crossovers and SUVs. With this statement, it is clear that the brand is thinking about finally entering the market. Schwarzenbauer confirmed it when he said, “We are seriously analyzing a Rolls-Royce in the SUV area.”

Recently, rival Bentley gave Rolls-Royce a better reason to consider producing their own SUV—a teaser of the SUV it plans to build. The luxury brand gave everyone a sneak peak of its latest ride, showing a bit of the SUV’s front fascia which features a quad-headlamp setup with the smaller lamps near the edge and a center grille. The other details are concealed by a digitally enhanced sandstorm.

Interestingly, Bentley already got 2,000 advance orders for the SUV that the general public has yet to see in full. The brand expects sales to reach the 3,000 mark.

Bentley’s new SUV is the redesigned and much improved version of the EXP 9 F SUV concept the brand presented at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show. It will be built on the Volkswagen Group’s MLB architecture, receive a 6.0-liter W-12 engine and seat as many as seven passengers.

Whether or not Rolls-Royce will come out with their own SUV in the near future remains to be seen but if the brand does enter the market, one thing is for sure—the model will meet Rolls-Royce requirements to be included in the portfolio.

“We have to know it would still be a true Rolls-Royce. If we’re not convinced it is, then I will not ask the board for permission to go forward with it. So the question is, does it fit to the Rolls-Royce brand?” said Schwarzenbauer.

Photo credit: Ken Lund/ Flickr/ CC BY-SA

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