SPARTANBURG COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA-TV) – After nearly a year under construction, BMW Spartanburg’s Zentrum is opening back up to the public. The onsite museum underwent a major renovation to better show the plant’s history and plans for the future.
The Zentrum opened up in 1996, 2 years after the plant, as a way to let the community see what they are doing here. 20 years later, the impact of BMW on the Upstate is evident.
The exhibit also highlights a 1957 BMW 507 roadster that once was owned by America’s “king”, Elvis Presley. Feather white and restored to perfection, all eyes were on the car that was once Presley’s baby, Thursday.
The roadster was thought to be lost sometime in the 1970s, until it showed up in a California pumpkin warehouse 40 years later.
“It is exactly as it was when it was brand new in 1957 and the days that Elvis drove it, minus all the lipstick and hearts that his fans would paint onto the car,” said BMW North America spokesman, Kenn Sparks.
Sparks got his start running the Zentrum in the late 90s, so he said it was appropriate to be on hand as the 5 million dollar renovation was revealed to the Upstate and the world.
“You have a look at BMW Heritage as well as the new cars, themselves,” said Sparks.
The BMW footprint is as evident through the museum, as it continues to be in South Carolina. It highlights its status as the busiest of BMW’s plants, worldwide.
2015 saw nearly $10 million dollars in exports through the Port of Charleston. The plant is responsible for 70,000 jobs across the country and there are an ever increasing number of cars produced each year.’
“Last year we were the biggest plant with nearly 400 thousand and this year we will have a little bit more,” explained BMW Manufacturing President and CEO, Manfred Erlacher.
Erlacher said he is confident in the direction the plant is heading, as the X Model, which is produced almost exclusively here in the Upstate, continues to rise in popularity.
“The X model has exploded, honestly,” he said.
He added their one billion dollar investment to expand the plant will wrap up construction at the end of this year and, soon, they will begin production of new cars, including electric and hybrid models that allow BMW Spartanburg to race into the future.
The Zentrum will open to the public next Monday, October 17th starting at 9:30am.