BEIJING -- BMW expects it could be autumn before it can gauge whether to proceed with plans to build Minis in China with Great Wall Motor.
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 with Great Wall are "going well," BMW CEO Harald Krueger told reporters on the sidelines of the auto show here last month, 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."
Krueger said the most pressing issue is resolving the technical issues surrounding the project, including the architecture to be used for Minis built in China.
BMW must get the design, platform, production and logistics right, Krueger said. "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.”
He did not say whether future Minis will drop BMW's expensive UKL front-wheel-drive architecture.
Automobile magazine has reported that BMW's talks with Great Wall include co-development of a new platform to underpin Minis after 2023.
BMW's plans for a second joint venture in China in addition to its partnership with Brilliance, which builds BMW brand models, could be helped by the Chinese government’s plan to end restrictions requiring foreign automakers to enter into 50-50 joint ventures.
Mini sales in China fell 9.2 percent to 6,662 cars in the first quarter, but BMW is expecting sales to pick up this year following the roll out of Mini's refreshed 3- and 5-door model launch this month.
Mini previewed the electric car it will build in Oxford at the Frankfurt auto show last September.