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Automotive Cluster

South Carolina understands what drives the automotive industry. Home to the world’s largest BMW production facility and recently established Volvo and Mercedes-Benz assembly plants, our state’s automotive excellence is revving into high gear. With a high concentration of engineering talent and cluster of automotive companies, Upstate South Carolina has become one of the nation’s most dynamic regions for automotive production and research.


Employing more than 11,000 people to produce X3, X4, X5, X6 and X7 models, BMW Plant Spartanburg is the company’s largest worldwide production facility producing more than 1,500 vehicles each day. To date, BMW has invested over $10.5 billion in Upstate South Carolina.


In 1973, Michelin established its first United States production facility within the Upstate. Since then, Michelin has established multiple Upstate locations, including its North American Headquarters, training facility, research center, test track and five production facilities.


ZF’s largest U.S. facility produces fuel-efficient 8- and 9-speed automatic transmissions for the passenger car and light truck market. At 1.4 million square feet and with more than 3,000 employees, the plant produces more than 1.2 million transmissions per year.

Largest Automotive-Related Companies in Upstate SC

Automotive Resources

The Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) is a 250-acre advanced technology research campus where university, industry and economic development collaborate. With over 200 students currently pursuing a Master of Science and/or Ph.D. in Automotive Engineering, CU-ICAR is training the next generation of automotive engineers with a curriculum driven by industry needs.  Likewise, CU-ICAR’s research portfolio is driven by industry needs with focus areas in: Advanced Powertrains, Systems Integration, Vehicular Electronics, Human Factors/HMI, Manufacturing and Materials, Vehicle-to-vehicle Infrastructure, and Vehicle Performance.

On the CU-ICAR campus, the Center for Emerging Technologies (CET) is a 60,000 square foot multi-tenant facility that provides office, administrative and laboratory space for the transportation, technology and energy sectors. In the CET, emerging or established companies are able to expand and develop technologies that complement the research of Clemson faculty and students. The center is designed to complete the technology chain from laboratory to the consumer, and also offers international companies a launching pad for U.S. operations.

Want to experience more? Take the CU-ICAR Virtual Tour.

The International Transportation Innovation Center (iTiC) develops premier technology testbeds to support all forms of mobility innovations, including zero-emission, automated and connected vehicles and systems. iTiC provides automakers, technology suppliers, research universities, and startups the ability to test and develop their innovations in open and/or closed testbed environments.

Established as an initiative by the South Carolina’s Manufacturers Alliance, the South Carolina Automotive Council is a member-based organization committed to serving automotive-related manufacturers through programs, services, advocacy and partnership.

Workforce & Training

South Carolina has a strong technical training and workforce development system. To support the growing demand for engineering expertise, CU-ICAR is graduating technical leaders possessing the critical thinking, technical skills, and creativity necessary to handle ever-increasing product complexity in a global environment. Supplying technical positions for the automotive industry, the SC Technical College System works hand-in-hand with its affiliate programs: readySC™Apprenticeship Carolina™  and QuickJobs Carolina™, so companies located in the area can take full advantage of the extensive education and training networks.

Upstate South Carolina is home to four technical colleges focused on serving the needs of local business and industry. The technical college system in the Upstate offers multiple automotive related degrees and certificates, including:

  • Mechatronics Technology
  • Automotive Technology
  • Mechanical Engineering Technology with Auto Focus
  • Welding Programs
  • Machine Tool Technology
  • Lean Manufacturing & ISO Programs

The Center for Manufacturing Innovation (CMI) is a collaboration between a leading research university, an innovative technical college and manufacturers to create a center that enhances the development and implementation of advanced manufacturing technologies. The primary goal for CMI is to increase the number of skilled workers to close the skills gap in manufacturing by offering curriculum designed to meet industry needs. CMI features the first of its kind manufacturing honors college as well as incubation space for start-ups.

Located at CMI, the Vehicle Assembly Center is a collaboration of CU-ICAR, Greenville Technical College, BMW Manufacturing and Siemens. The 4,000-square-foot center has a full vehicle assembly line, joining lab, sub-assembly lab, embedded devices lab, collaborative robotics center and autonomous factory vehicles.