DETROIT – Capacity-constrained BMW AG is mulling additional expansion of its Spartanburg, SC, assembly plant, the auto maker’s top U.S. executive says.

Tom Purves, CEO of BMW (US) Holding Group, says Spartanburg is running “flat out” with overtime in order to meet demand of Z3 sports cars and X5 cross/utility vehicles (CUVs).

The plant already has increased capacity by 80% over the last two years, BMW says, but there remains room for expansion. The X5, with sales of 82,700 worldwide last year, currently has an order backlog of three to four months, the auto maker says.

Purves won’t say when a decision on expansion could come. “We’re studying that now, but it’s an ongoing thing,” he says following the unveiling here of the 760 Li that will hit the U.S. market later this year. The top-of-the-line luxury car features a new 6L, all-aluminum, 400-hp V-12 that boasts four valves per cylinder with fully variable camshaft control.

Meanwhile, BMW Chairman Joachim Milberg says he expects his company’s “current growth track to continue.”

BMW sold a record 905,000 vehicles (including Mini) worldwide in 2001, an increase of 10% from the prior year. That total includes deliveries of 534,200 3-Series cars and 194,300 5-Series models. Total sales in the U.S., at 213,000 units, also were a record and represent a four-fold increase over the past 10 years. New sales highs were reached last year in the U.K., France and Italy, as well, Milberg says. Deliveries rose 71% in Mexico to 6,100 units. And sales in Asia were up 5.5% to 61,000 units, he adds, including 35,700 in Japan and 5,700 in China, where BMW still is awaiting government approval of a joint venture to build cars with Brilliance China Automotive Holdings

Milberg also says BMW will post record earnings for 2001, surpassing 2000 profits of E2.38 billion ($2.12 billion). “We achieved this increase although we committed substantial expenditure for our ongoing product and market offensive,” he says.

That level of investment will continue, he adds, with BMW set to spend E10 billion ($9 billion) on new products over the next six years. It has earmarked another E16 billion ($14.5 billion) in additional unspecified investment over that time, as well. All of that will be financed from cash flow, Milberg says.

Among the new vehicles on the horizon are the 1-Series that will be positioned below the 3-Series; the return of the 6-Series, which will be offered in both coupe and convertible form; and upcoming X3 CUV that slots below the X5 in size and price.