GENEVA - BMW will produce its new premium-priced hybrid sport-utility in the USA, beginning late next year.
BMW executives said they decided to add the vehicle to the Spartanburg, South Carolina, factory because the USA will be the vehicle's primary market.
The internal BMW name for the car is SAV, for sport-activity vehicle. Its code name is E53.
The car will be based on the 5-series car platform, and it will be priced about $50,000. That will put it above the Mercedes-Benz M-class which starts at $34,545.
BMW expects to produce about 50,000 of the vehicles a year, with the bulk of sales in the USA.
The vehicle is a response to the Mercedes M-class, but BMW decided to create a sub-segment in the sport-utility class rather than compete head-on.
'The E53 will be the best in its class on-road, not off-road,' said a spokesman. 'The target is to invent a new niche.'
BMW will continue to market its Land Rovers as the best off-road vehicles.
The BMW vehicle will not be in competition with Land Rover because it is more a car than a sport-utility, said Bernd Pischetsrieder, BMW's chairman.
BMW is to name the car at the Detroit auto show next January and will probably introduce it there. Marketers are considering a departure from its usual alphanumeric model designations.
'American sport-utility buyers want a lot of room, a higher-up ride, that feeling of safety and a passenger-car - not a truck - ride,' said Pischetsrieder.
The sport-activity vehicle should push BMW sales in the USA to as high as 160,000 units in 2000, said Victor Doolan, president of BMW of North America Inc.
BMW sold 122,467 cars there in 1997.