BMW Group expands electric mobility footprint in China

The BMW Group and the Chinese manufacturer Great Wall Motor today signed an agreement to produce MINI electric vehicles through a new 50:50 joint venture based in China.

During an event for autonomous and connected driving attended by China’s Premier Li Keqiang and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, the BMW Group and Great Wall Motor committed to found a new joint venture, “Spotlight Automotive Limited”, for the development and production of electric vehicles in China. As well as MINI electric vehicles, the joint venture will also produce electric vehicles for Great Wall Motor.

The establishment of the new company is subject to approval from the relevant Chinese authorities and the completion of business registration procedures. The joint venture will be located in Jiangsu Province, where both partners will together create a new state-of-the-art production facility.

The production of future battery-electric MINI vehicles in China, the world’s largest market for electromobility, is a key element of MINI’s continued strategic development within the BMW Group’s Strategy NUMBER ONE > NEXT. Today’s move follows the “letter of intent” signed with Great Wall Motor on 23 February 2018. It is another significant step towards the electrified future of the MINI brand, coming in addition to start-of-production next year of the first battery electric MINI at the brand’s main plant in Oxford.

The BMW Group is firmly committed to continuing the successful cooperation with the established sales structure and channels in China and has no plans to set up an additional sales organisation in China for future MINI electric vehicles from this joint venture. The joint venture’s activities will focus on the development, procurement and production of electric vehicles for the Chinese market.

As announced yesterday, the BMW Group will also further expand its highly successful BMW Brilliance Automotive (BBA) joint venture in China with its partner, Brilliance. In recent years, BBA has become a cornerstone of the BMW brand’s success in its largest market. Around 560,000 BMW brand vehicles were delivered to customers in China in 2017 – more than in the next two largest markets, the US and Germany, combined. Two-thirds of all BMW vehicles sold in China last year were produced by BBA. In 2017, China was MINI’s fourth-largest market, with around 35,000 units delivered. This underlines the brand’s additional global potential, which will now be significantly supported through the joint venture with Great Wall Motor.

In addition to the two automobile production locations, BBA also runs an engine plant, which includes a battery factory for the electrified BMW brand vehicles produced locally in Shenyang. This is the first battery factory operated by a premium automobile manufacturer in China. Local production of the BMW iX3, the first all-electric core model of the BMW brand, will start in 2020 in Shenyang. The BMW iX3 is also intended for export to markets outside of China.

In a related news, BMW Group has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), under which the BMW Group will join Apollo, the open autonomous driving platform by Baidu, as a board member. The MoU marks the beginning of a new partnership on autonomous driving between the BMW Group and Baidu. The two companies seek to work together to bring safe, convenient and intelligent mobility experiences for consumers in China.

The BMW Group is developing an autonomous driving platform with technology solutions for Level 3 to Level 4/5 (highly to fully automated driving), as well as for advanced driving assistance systems (Level 2). This scalable autonomous driving solution is being developed with technology and OEM partners that contribute knowledge, resources and intellectual property assets for a state-of-the-art concept.

Apollo is an open platform that provides a comprehensive, secure and reliable solution that supports all major features and functions of an autonomous vehicle. Since its launch in July, 2017, Apollo has brought together 118 global partners across both automotive and technology industries. Apollo’s success is built on its commitment to enabling developers and partners to accelerate the pace of innovation by opening capabilities and sharing resources.

Blagojce Krivevski

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