Layoffs ahead for S.C. temp workers at BMW

More than 500 temporary workers at BMW's South Carolina plant likely will lose their jobs at the end of the year because the ailing economy in the United States has hurt sales for the German automaker.

The exact number of layoffs hasn't been determined, but the company that provides the workers for the plant said it has told the state up to 733 layoffs are possible, and the final number should be above 500 employees, said Randy Hatcher, president of MAU staffing company.

Most of the workers are on BMW's production line, although some employees in logistics also will be affected, Hatcher said Friday.

BMW uses temporary workers to handle fluctuations in production levels, Hatcher said.

About 5,400 workers at the plant are employed by BMW, while others are hired by contractors. BMW did not return several messages seeking comment.

MAU will try to find other jobs for the workers, and Hatcher hopes BMW will hire them back either when the economy improves or when the automaker opens a $750 million expansion it's building at its plant near Spartanburg.

BMW has not been immune to a recent slump in auto sales. U.S. sales for the automaker plunged nearly 30 percent in September when compared with the same month last year, and sales for the first nine months of this year are down almost 10 percent compared to the same period in 2007, said Aaron Bragman, an auto analyst with the consulting company Global Insight.

The vehicles made at the S.C. plant have taken an even bigger hit. Sales for the Z4 coupe are off by a third this year and two-thirds in September, while sales of the X5 sports utility vehicle have been flat, Bragman said.

People are looking to buy less expensive cars, and some interested in buying a BMW may not be able to get loans, Bragman said.