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Inside the BMW factory in Pretoria

BMW has a world-class factory right here in South Africa, which produces models for more than 40 export markets around the world.

Located in Rosslyn on the northern outskirts of Pretoria, the facility exclusively produces the X3 SUV and is capable of making more than 70,000 units per year – equating to around 191 cars per day.

Originally built in 1973, the plant was the automaker’s very first one to be built outside of Germany, illustrating how BMWs have long been a staple of the South African road scene.

World-class production

Today, Rosslyn is one of 30 BMW production facilities around the world and is one of only three locations where the popular X3 is built, alongside another plant in the United States and one in China.

Incredibly, the South African facility produces so many units that it is frequently called upon to make up for demand in foreign markets supplied by its American and Chinese counterparts, a BMW representative told TopAuto.

It may then be surprising to hear that Rosslyn has not been producing the SUV for very long; in fact, the X3 has only been in production since 2018, as the plant was previously responsible for several other units with the 3 Series sedan being the most recent.

Taking a look at the facility’s entire history, the local premises were initially responsible for classic models like the 325 and the 2000 SA, the latter of which was exclusively made and sold for the South African market.

The 3 Series was first introduced in 1983, and in the 1990s BMW expanded to include export models for the first time and subsequently introduced a second shift to the workday.

A third shift was then added in 2012, and production of the 3 Series lasted until 2018, meaning the fan-favourite sedan was built in South Africa for 35 years straight with a grand total of 1,191,604 units making their way off the factory floor.

The decision to move from the 3 Series to the X3 was largely driven by market forces, as global preferences have gradually shifted towards the crossover and SUV body type in the last few years, while sedans have seen a corresponding drop in interest.

The facility

This year marked the 50th anniversary of the Rosslyn plant, where BMW proudly announced that it had just finished creating its 300,000th X3, which also means the plant has been responsible for an incredible 1.6 million cars since its inception.

It also revealed that it had invested a total of R12.6 billion in South Africa since 1995 and that it now employs 2,200 workers spread out across a three-shift 24-hour cycle.

Approximately 95.9% of all the cars it makes are for export markets, while the remaining 4.1% go on to find a home somewhere in the country.

Most of these export units are shipped to Europe and the United States, which consequently means about 80% of the vehicles made at Rosslyn are left-hand drive.

The premises are spread out over 32,000 square metres and comprise five main areas – logistics offices, body shop, paint shop, assembly line, and quality control.

The body shop is almost fully automated, with 330 robots lifting entire body frames with ease while others set about the task of welding with pinpoint precision.

Likewise, the paint shop is mostly automated and uses giant machines to dip entire vehicles in a vat to apply the various undercoats. The workers who are employed in the paint area are required to wear full-body hazmat suits to prevent contamination.

Assembly and quality control are where the majority of BMW’s human workforce is stationed, and are responsible for putting the final product together, from the engines and chassis to the brakes, lights, and interiors.

BMW Rosslyn Plant South Africa

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