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How BMW builds four cars on one line

BMW’s factory in Leipzig, Germany recently became the first BMW plant in the world to produce two automotive brands on the same assembly line.

Following a substantial €700 million (R14.2 billion) investment over the course of five years, the Leipzig facility now builds the 1 Series Hatch, the 2 Series Active Tourer and Gran Coupe, as well as the new Mini Countryman – marking the first time a Mini model is being made in Germany.

Thanks to its flexible assembly structures, the plant is also in a position to produce petrol, plug-in-hybrid, and fully-electric drives all on the same production line.

At present, 100 Countryman units roll through the doors per day, as well as almost 1,000 BMW-badged autos.

A massive undertaking

Since 2018, BMW has spent in the region of €500 million (R10.2 billion) in Leipzig to increase production volume for the new models, with another €200 million (R4 billion) earmarked for adapting the production system to Mini-specific requirements.

This saw the body shop, paint shop, assembly lines, and logistics undergoing extensive additions and upgrades, taking production capacity up from 250,000 units per year previously to as much as 350,000 units per annum today.

Another important aspect was to transform the facility to be able to produce battery-electric vehicles.

Starting 2024, plant Leipzig will run the entire production process for the fifth generation of BMW high-voltage batteries. This consists of three stages: cell coating, module production, and battery assembly.

As we speak, the five-cell coating lines, three-module production lines, and the first high-voltage battery assembly lines are all in the process of going into operation, with a second high-voltage battery assembly line scheduled for launch in 2024.

Built for sustainability

Sustainability is part of the Leipzig factory’s “DNA” which is exemplified by the four wind turbines that generate electricity for the assembly plant. They were erected in 2013 and generate approximately 25GWh per year.

The automaker reached another milestone in 2017 when it installed a battery storage farm equipped with up to 700 second-life, high-voltage batteries from retired i3 vehicles.

This provides interim electricity storage for energy from the wind turbines, consequently assisting in optimising local energy management and stabilising the grid, said BMW.

This eco-friendly approach of the factory is echoed in the new Countryman.

Going forward, the crossover’s contrast roof will be painted using a new, resource-friendly method known as overspray-free painting that does away with excess paint generated by conventional painting methods and makes surfaces with more than one colour easier to produce, as they no longer require the laborious process of masking.

Furthermore, chrome no longer features anywhere in the interior or exterior of the Mini, its light-metal alloy wheels are cast from up to 70% secondary aluminium, and the electric motors are made entirely without rare earth minerals.

Similarly, the cabin consists purely of innovative materials that are “easy on the environment.” For example, the dashboard, door facias, floor covering and floor mats are recycled textiles which not only reduce CO2 emissions along the value chain but also require less water to manufacture.

BMW Leipzig plant

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