BMW Group, Mini's parent automaker, has signed a letter of intent to initiate a joint venture with China's Great Wall to produce battery-electric Minis in the country. Currently, the Mini plant in Oxford, England, is set to produce an electric Mini in 2019.
The German automaker said production follows the market, and it sees immense opportunity for all-electric Minis in China. The country was Mini's fourth-largest market in 2017 with 35,000 units delivered. China is also the largest market for electrified vehicles, or "new-energy vehicles," as the Chinese government refers to them.
Mini Electric concept, 2017 Frankfurt auto show
With the letter of intent, Mini and BMW will now discuss further details with Great Wall to solidify a production facility and work out final investment figures for the potential joint venture.
Aside from the forthcoming Great Wall joint venture, BMW also plans to expand its partnership with automaker Brilliance in China. The automaker said the BMW-Brilliance Alliance (BBA) will set an example for the Mini-Great Wall joint venture. BBA delivered 560,000 BMWs in 2017, making the country the luxury marque's largest market.
BMW Group was careful to say that the BMW brand's Chinese partnership and joint venture have not led to production decreases in Germany. The company noted that a similar growth strategy for Mini could accelerate growth of the brand without hurting the company's commitment to England. In fact, according to the automaker, BMW output has actually increased at its German facilities while it expands production to other countries.
We first heard news of the potential joint venture between Mini and Great Wall last month, but an Automotive News report also claimed future Minis will ride on a new platform shared between both automakers. No mention of the prospect of sharing architectures with Great Wall was made in the latest announcement.