Closeup of car


South Carolina Auto Industry


The Automotive Cluster is one of South Carolina's shining successes, with its anchor in the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research, also known as CU-ICAR. South Carolina has differentiated itself by building this world-class research capability in the sate.

The cluster seeks to build greater breadth and depth in the South Carolina automotive cluster, and to continuously upgrade the quality of its business environment.


1. Recruit a new OEM and other major suppliers
2. Recruit additional companies for CU-ICAR. Currently the following companies are involved with CU-ICAR: BMW Information Technology Research Center, JTEKT  (formerly Timken Bearing), American Titanium Works, Sage (Auto Interiors), Proterra (Alternate Fuel Buses) and CT&T (Electric Car Company).

Lowcountry Region

The U.S. Southeast has emerged as a key center of automotive activity, and Charleston is among the top location for the industry. The automotive industry's primary functions are to design, manufacture and distribute transportation vehicles.  Suppliers in the lowcountry provide engine parts, electrical systems, seats and chassis components to auto assembly plants to name a few. The U.S. Southeast has emerged as a key center of automotive activity, and Charleston is among the top locations for the industry. Global players such as Robert Bosch, Cummins Engines and Daimler all have a presence here, and dozens of other operations are thriving and growing in the area.

Learn more about South Carolina's target automotive industry in the Lowcountry from our partners at the Charleston Regional Development Alliance.

Reference Library

Success Story

Boogity, boogity, boogity, let's go racing boys! Well, maybe not exactly racing. But how about race car testing?? In a wind tunnel?? That’s exactly what a Clemson Board of Trustee proposed to New Carolina's George Fletcher and other Upstate, South Carolina leaders back in 2000. 

CU-ICAR – Clemson’s International Center for Automotive Research and the basis for South Carolina’s automotive cluster – was originally envisioned to be a wind tunnel project lab designed to test race cars. It was even going to include a museum for fallen motor sports heroes. 

But BMW - the worlds leading automotive manufacturer headquartered right in Greer, South Carolina - had plans to build a first rate engineering school. They wanted to work with Clemson to create a new model of integrated engineering education built around the automobile. CU-ICAR’s vision is to be the premier automotive and motorsports research and educational facility in the world.

$600 million dollars, 237 acres, four endowed chairs and 10 years later, CU ICAR houses a graduate School of Automotive Engineering, and the Timken Research Lab. It represents a strategically focused automotive and motorsports research campus. And is composed of five technology neighborhoods.

North Carolina has Research Triangle Park.  South Caroilna has CU-ICAR. The campus embodies the clustering concept, and is the heart of South Carolina’s Automotive Cluster.

The cluster includes BMW IT Research Center, the Carroll A. Campbell Graduate Engineering Center, BMW Manufacturing , and Greenville, Spartanburg and Tri County Technical Colleges. South Carolina's Endowed Chairs program - also known as Smart State - brought Dr. Tom Kurfess to the campus.

Clusters connect to research and to economic development to enhance innovation, efficiency and entrepreneurship, and help bring world class companies and the best and brightest young talent to a region. The Automotive Cluster in South Carolina includes 125 automotive suppliers and related companies in a 10-county region. There are  7 OEMs (original equipment manufacturer), 341 manufacturing plants and 1,530 companies in the industry.

  • Annual economic impact - $8.3 Billion
  • Investment since 1992 - $5 Billion (2007 dollars)
  • Direct Employees – 5,400 with $437 million/year payroll
  • In State Suppliers – 49
  • Indirect Employees – 23,000
  • World class community citizen
  • 250 acre campus
  • 5 Technology Neighborhood developments planned
  • 4 Buildings with 308,000 sq ft of occupied space
  • 4 Endowed Chairs
  • Research Awards - $15 mm
  • Investment - $233.65 Million
  • More than 50% is private or foundation money

clusters ::

Stay Connected

Subscribe to our E-Newsletter and stay connected with New Carolina.

Thank you for signing up! Look for our monthly newsletter in your inbox soon.