SPARTANSBURG, S.C.—For the fifth consecutive year, BMW is the largest vehicle exporter in the U.S. by value, according to data from the U.S. Department of Commerce.
BMW's sprawling factory in Spartanburg, S.C., exported 234,689 X-series crossovers in 2018 valued at more than $8.4 billion.
The escalating trade war between the U.S. and China is affecting the plant. The two countries ratcheted up automotive duties last year by way of retaliatory tariffs.
China is the biggest export market for the plant, which employs more than 11,000 workers. Nearly a third of that export volume was headed to China.
Last year, BMW stopped exporting the X3 from the U.S. to China amid the escalating trade row, adding production at plants in Rosslyn, South Africa, and Shenyang, China.
Total exports to China in 2018 were 48,537 units, slightly more than 20 percent of the total vehicle exports from the plant. China exports were down about 40 percent from 2017, primarily because X3 production was localized in that country in May 2018.
"Higher prices, higher taxes, higher tariffs ... will put some pressure," BMW of North America CEO Bernhard Kuhnt said in November at the Los Angeles Auto Show. "That is absolutely clear."
As vehicles become more expensive because of tariffs, it "will have an effect on the customer behavior," he said.
The Spartanburg plant produced 356,749 vehicles last year, down slightly from the prior year because of updates to the X4 and X5. The factory, which has annual production capacity of 450,000 vehicles, built its 4.5 millionth vehicle last month.