BMW is discussions with Great Wall for a joint venture to build electric MINIs in China, in addition to production of MINI’s first full-electric car due to come off the line next year at its home factory in Oxford, England. Talks began last year when BMW Group signed an “letter of intent” with the Chinese manufacturer.
Talks with Great Wall are “going well,” BMW CEO Harald Krueger told Automotive News, but discussions could take months before concluding. “If I think back to the negotiations over our first joint venture with Brilliance, that took a while. It will draw out weeks and months and that’s completely normal in this phase. Ask me in autumn I should know more then.”
Expansion of the BMW brand in its largest markets, such as China, has not led to a decrease in production at the company’s German plants. On the contrary, between 2007 and 2017, production in Germany increased by close to a quarter to around 1.15 million vehicles per year. At the same time, almost half of all BMW production now takes place at plants outside Germany. A similar growth strategy could accelerate development of the MINI brand significantly without questioning the BMW Group’s commitment in the UK.
Krueger said the most pressing issue is resolving the technical issues surrounding the project, including the architecture to be used for MINI built in China. “If a Mini doesn’t end up looking like a Mini because of an architecture issue then it won’t work. That’s why the technical questions are the priority.” The electric architecture is still a mystery for the new MINI and in the past, the British brand built its name on the front-wheel drive architecture which now powers many new BMWs.
Automobile magazine has reported that BMW’s talks with Great Wall include co-development of a new platform to underpin MINIs after 2023.
When introduced in Frankfurt last year, BMW claimed the car will be “quick off the mark with a precision-tuned suspension” and will have the dynamic character of a standard MINI on the road.
The first MINI electric will go on sale in 2019.