Volcanic ash cloud could halt U.S. BMW production

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Photo of BMW's Spartanburg, South Carolina plant. It's BMW's only U.S. production plant, and it may temporarily shut down production within the next couple of days if the ash cloud restricting flights out of Europe continues to hamper visibility.

Eyjafjalajökull and the possible Hekla eruption did not occur in Spartanburg, South Carolina, but BMW production at the plant is nevertheless affected by Icelandic volcano eruptions and the resulting ash clouds. (Photo: Wikipedia)

The recent volcanic activity of Eyjafjalajökull has filled the skies around Iceland and Europe with a tremendous ash cloud that could halt production of BMW automobiles at the company’s U.S. factory in Spartanburg, South Carolina, reports AutoNews.com. If trans-Atlantic flights continue to be delayed for two additional days, says BMW spokesman Mathias Schmidt, the German automaker will be unable to supply the necessary transmissions to assemble X5 and X6 sport utility vehicles.

Think BMW is hurting because of the ash cloud?

If you think BMW’s bottom line would be hurt be a production layoff, imagine what the ash clouds from Eyjafjalajökull are doing to the airline industry and what a possible Hekla eruption could do. According to the BBC, the International Air Transport Association finds that airlines are losing around $300 million per day total due to flights canceled because of the ash cloud. If the trouble persists for weeks, many billions of dollars could be lost. As many as 63,000 flights have been canceled since the eruption chain created the ash cloud on April 14. If the BMW plant in Spartanburg were to shut down, the company would be losing out on the production of about 600 vehicles per day, split between the X5 and X6 (numbers estimated by BMW). A press trip to a BMW factory in Shenyang, China was also called off because of restricted air travel.

America has been good to BMW in 2010

According to Bloomberg, the U.S. was BMW’s biggest market in the first two months of 2010, so shutting down X5 and X6 production will certainly be noticed. The X5 line is considered to be BMW’s “luxury SUV” class. Variants include the X5 xDrive30i, xDrive48i and turbo diesel xDrive35d. The X6 line bears the honor of being the “first ever sports activity coupe,” according to BMW. Model production affected by the ash cloud would include the ActiveHybrid X6, X6 xDrive35i and X6 xDrive50i.

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