BMW to Build a New Auto Plant in China with Great Wall Motor to Produce the Electric MINI

BMW to Build a New Auto Plant in China with Great Wall Motor to Produce the Electric MINI

Author: Eric Walz   

German automaker BMW and its Chinese partner Great Wall Motor said they plan to build a plant in China with a capacity of 160,000 cars per year. The plant will produce BMW's electric MINI and Great Wall Motor models.

According to Reuters, the 650 million euro ($716 million) plant is due for completion in 2022.

Great Wall Motor is China's biggest producer of pickup trucks and SUVs under its subsidiaries in China. The company, like other automakers in China, are shifting focus on building electric vehicles in China's push to lead the world in EV sales. 

Strict new Chinese quotas car require automakers to produce more new energy vehicles (NEVs), which includes fully electric and plug-in hybrid models. New rules rules call for electric and rechargeable hybrid vehicles to account for a fifth of total sales by 2025.

Great Wall builds electric vehicles under its affordable electric vehicle brand Ora, which was established in 2018 in Baoding, the city where it is based. Great Wall is also planning to expand its Ora brand to Europe.

The Ora R1 is a compact and affordable electric car initially targeted at urban customers in China. The price of the R1 starts at 59,800 RMB ($8,680).

"We have the vision to become a market leader in the electric vehicles segment in China," said Ning Shuyong general manager of Ora to the South China Morning Post last year. "Our cars are designed and built in compliance with international standards and we definitely set our sights on international markets including Europe."

Shuyong joined Great Wall Motor from Chinese automaker Geely in 2018 to act the role of the group's vice president but also will take charge of new energy vehicle (NEV) divisions.

ora R1.jpeg

The Ora R1

The new joint venture is named Spotlight Automotive and will be based in Zhangjiagang near Shanghai and eventually employ 3,000 people, Reuters reported.

BMW and Great Wall were working on plans to build a low-cost electric vehicle since February 2018. The two automakers were reportedly developing a joint EV platform which BMW would use for its Mini brand and Great Wall would use for its new electric brand Ora.

BMW unveiled the first electric MINI this year. The MINI electric is expected to arrive at U.S. dealers in March 2020.

In August, Great Wall Motor said that its joint venture with BMW was facing regulatory uncertainties. However, earlier this month Great Wall gained regulatory approval for the new plant in China.

BMW is following the footsteps of its rival Volkswagen expanding operations in China to build electric cars in the world's biggest auto market. Volkswagen is preparing two Chinese factories to build electric cars next year which will have a combined production capacity of 600,000 vehicles.

For comparison, electric automaker Tesla is targeting an output of 150,000 Model 3's at its Shanghai gigafactory which began building its first electric cars this month.

Eric Walz
Eric Walz
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry here in Silicon Valley. He has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology.
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