BEIJING -- Great Wall Motor said it is in talks to cooperate with BMW over Mini brand cars.
The carmakers have been discussing plans to launch electric and conventional Mini models in China for 18 months, Great Wall said in a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange on Friday, confirming reports of the talks on Thursday.
The talks are in a preliminary stage and the companies have not entered into any legal agreement to establish a joint venture in China, Great Wall said.
BMW said it planned to grow the Mini brand in China with a new local partner, without naming Great Wall.
Moving some production of the iconic British car to China may help lower manufacturing costs for BMW, which is now in the midst of a costly push for electric vehicles as governments around the world seek to cut pollution caused by fossil fuels.
BMW builds Minis in the UK, the Netherlands and Brazil, and is now preparing to add an electric version at its Oxford, England facility starting 2019 through 2023, with key components coming from sites in Germany. The relatively short time-frame would allow the company to shift production elsewhere with the car's next revamp should tariffs surge when Britain quits the European Union.
The Mini brand's planned expansion in China "does not call into question our commitment to our facilities in Britain," BMW said in a statement. "It is only possible to accelerate growth of Mini in China with a local partner."
In China, BMW already builds cars locally in a venture with Brilliance China Automotive Holdings. Sales of BMW and Mini cars in China rose 16 percent in the first eight months to 383,976 units. China's passenger-vehicle sales rose 3.3 percent to 2.34 million units last month, data showed on Thursday.
If successfully concluded, the BMW-Great Wall talks could yield a first foreign manufacturing partner for Great Wall. The company has become China's leading SUV producer by offering consumers spacious models at prices cheaper than sedans from the likes of Volkswagen and General Motors. Great Wall is now gunning for a slice of the premium SUV market, dominated by foreign brands such as Land Rover and Jeep.
Reuters contributed to this report
EDITORS NOTE: An earlier version of this story misstated the production locations for Mini.