SOUTHFIELD, Michigan -- BMW will likely make more than 300,000 vehicles in the U.S. for the first time in 2012, Ludwig Willisch, CEO of BMW of North America, said.
BMW is looking for the "best and most efficient way to get beyond" that production total in 2012, Willisch said.
Output of 300,000 vehicles from BMW's plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, would be an increase of 8.7 percent from the 276,065 the company said it made there last year.
"The market is so bullish, we could sell more than originally anticipated," Willisch said on the sidelines of the National Automobile Dealers Association's annual convention in Las Vegas on Feb. 5. "Clearly, the demand is there."
BMW said Jan. 12 that it will invest about $900 million in its only U.S. factory to boost capacity and to prepare the facility for making the new X4 SUV.
The spending, to be completed during a three-year span, will help increase capacity at Spartanburg to 350,000 vehicles a year, the automaker said in a statement.
The factory already makes X3, X5 and X6 SUVs.
BMW's forecast exceeds production estimates by IHS Automotive, which sees output from Spartanburg falling to about 260,000 this year, Tracy Handler, a Troy, Michigan-based analyst, said in a phone interview.
"They're probably looking at a little bit stronger U.S. sales than what we have," IHS's Handler said. "We had good momentum the first month of the year, but we're still pretty cautious on what's going to happen and if anything happens in Greece and in Europe and how that would affect us here."
More than 70 percent of BMW's vehicles made in Spartanburg are exported.
BMW, which is fending off efforts by Audi and Mercedes-Benz to take the industry's top luxury sales spot, targets sales of more than 2 million vehicles by 2020.
The company sold 1.38 million BMW-badged cars and SUVs last year, placing it ahead of Audi, which sold 1.3 million units and Mercedes with sales of 1.26 million units in 2011.