Did you ever wonder what happens at the port to your car after itís shipped from the factory?
2/12/2004

On Saturday January 24th, the Los Angeles Chapter of the BMWCCA toured the BMW Vehicle Distribution at Port Hueneme in Oxnard, California (approximately one hour West of L.A., just off the Pacific Coast Highway). There is a similar BMW facility in New Jersey that serves the East Coast.



The VDC was up and running even though it was Saturday. Our tour guide, Eric, stated that they normally worked 7AM to 4PM M-F, but worked Saturdays when there was high demand for "Priority One" vehicles (Priority One is a car that is already sold).



One of the perks of working at the VDC is that each of the 84 employees gets a free BMW lease (3, 5, x3, x5, z4, MINI). They are able to wrack up 15,000 miles on the car then return it for a new one. They can get multiple cars per year.







This very nice 2002 was my favorite BMW at the VDC.







Upon walking into the VDC, we were greeted by three new BMW 6-Series. These are the first of only seven 6-Series to come through the Port Hueneme VDC.



The 6-Series Coupe









The 6-Series Convertible













The 84 employees at the Port Hueneme VDC process ~400 cars per day (BMW - New and European Delivery, MINI, and on occasion Rolls Royce). The facility holds 3000 cars, with many more cars waiting down at the docks to travel the 1.3 miles to the VDC.







The 7-Series, 5-Series, and 3-Series are all shipped with a thick waxy coating. This coating is removed with a very hot power car wash. The wax is then recovered and separated from the water, and then it is used to fuel the burners that heat the water for the car wash. These cars are waiting to be cleaned.







Here you can see the wax on the car.







The new X3 is transported in these felty shipping packs. There are zippers around the gas cap, driver's door, and the hood.







After the shipping protection is removed, the cars receive one final wash before entering the VDC building. This next picture is the first step inside the building: software campaigns (in the case of the MINI V.36 if it hasn't already been installed).







At the quickest, a Priority One car could be fully processed in two days. In the past, BMW dyno tested a sampling of arriving cars to see if they were compliant with the HP figures they expected. This process is now done at the factory.







This X3 is getting ready to be checked out and if needed, the yellow grilles can be removed from the floor and the bottom of the car can be accessed from a trench below.







Sometimes cars suffer damage in shipping. This new 5 is getting ready to go to paint. The interior has been stripped and the windows on the side being painted have been removed.



If the car suffers damage in excess of 3% of it's value it has to be disclosed to the dealer. As I understand it, if BMW replaced the engine in your car at the VDC, that would not have to be disclosed to the dealer. This is because all BMW parts are being used and installed to BMW spec. However, repaired body damage (something on the order of the MINI's roof, not like a replaced bumper cover) would be declared to the dealer.







Another BMW waiting to be repaired to BMW specifications.







This MINI was on the lower level of a transport truck. The shipper lowered the upper deck and crushed the roof. BMW has replaced the roof and the car will soon visit the paint shop.







Just because they were trying to repair a car doesn't mean it was going to be sent out to a customer. The repair still has to be inspected afterwards and get approval that it meets BMW's specifications. So we really don't know what the future holds for that MINI with the crushed/repaired roof. The people I spoke with at the VPC took a lot of pride in the quality of their work and the finished product and were adamant that if a car couldn't meet spec it would be scrapped (we were talking about cars with frame damage at the time).





The paint shop was the next station we saw. This 3 needs to get the driver's side door painted. The environment in the paint booth is strictly controlled. After paint, the cars are moved into another room where the paint is baked.







This is the exit to the paint shop.







The MINI color pallet







CANDY BLUE SIGHTING! Ok, so it's not a Candy Blue MINI, but it does appear they are ready to paint MINIs candy blue should the need arise.







This is a Z4 that is in the training area of the body shop. Technicians from dealerships in the Western Region come to the VPC for training.







A straight shot down the length of the Z4







There was a new 5-Series with extensive front end damage. This car was BMW's cold weather test vehicle and it was the first new 5 to be crashed, during testing in Alaska. The car was now being used as a demonstration piece in the training area. This next shot was made possible because the front end bodywork, back to the frame rails, had been removed.







The BMWs and MINIs are processed together.







MINIs nearing the end of the check-out at the VDC.







This MINI has completed the process at the VDC. All it needs now is for a truck to pick it up and take it to it's owner.







If you remember earlier when we saw that MINI with the roof being replaced, this is the type of truck that it was on. The top of the trailer pops up a few feet to allow better access. The cars on the bottom are suppose to be unloaded first poor MINI with the crushed roof.







With that, the cars are loaded up and leave the Port Hueneme Vehicle Distribution Center.



Special thanks to David Bunting for his photos and insight!