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Joint venture shines Spotlight on plan to build electric MINIs in China

By Li Fusheng | China Daily | Updated: 2019-12-02 11:07
MINI displays a Countryman model at the Shanghai auto show held in April. [Photo by Li Fusheng/China Daily]

China's Great Wall Motors and German carmaker BMW unveiled their joint venture Spotlight Automotive in Zhangjiagang, Jiangsu province, on Friday. It marks the latest step of their plan to co-develop and produce electric vehicles for the global market.

Spotlight, with a 50:50 structure, has a total investment of 5.1 billion yuan ($724.4 million). Construction of its plant will start in 2020 and is to be completed by 2022, said the joint venture's chairman, Zhao Guoqing.

Unlike other joint ventures that introduce international models, Zhao said BMW and Great Wall Motors will co-develop and produce electric cars at the joint venture, including electric MINIs and Great Wall Motors' vehicles.

He did not say what would be the first model and when it would roll off the assembly line.

Besides development and production, Spotlight will also cover procurement, warehousing and logistics.

When electric MINIs are produced at the plant they will not only be sold in China but exported to international markets. However, BMW said it will not set up an additional sales organization in China for future models from this joint venture.

Wei Jianjun, chairman of Great Wall Motors, said the partnership will speed up his company's globalization drive. As the largest pickup and SUV producer in China, it has exported models for years and has overseas plants and research and development facilities.

"BMW is an experienced veteran and a teacher for us. We can learn from BMW in terms of technology, global operations and its understanding of local legislation," said Wei.

Claus Froehlich, a BMW board member responsible for development, said the two parties will make the most of their advantages to make the joint venture a success.

"BMW Group is a pioneer in the field of electromobility and Great Wall is a major player and expert in industrialization in the Chinese market," he said.

He said China is the world's largest car market and has a large urban market, which means great potential for affordable electric MINIs.

"Good products and good brands always succeed," said Froehlich.

BMW said producing electric MINI vehicles in China, the world's largest market for electromobility, is a key element of MINI's continued strategic development.

MINI's Oxford plant in the United Kingdom is preparing production of electric vehicles. The first electric MINI will come to the market in early 2020.

BMW said the Oxford plant, which recently built the 10 millionth car since the model's launch in 1959, will remain the heart and home of MINI manufacturing, while Spotlight will provide additional capacity and flexibility.

Svolt, a battery maker that spun off from Great Wall Motors in 2018, will provide batteries for the electric MINIs to be made in China. Its president, Yang Hongxin, said the company is now the only candidate on the list of Spotlight's battery suppliers.

Yang said his team has been involved in the design of Spotlight's electric car platform and worked with BMW engineers in a lot of aspects, including battery cells, modules and systems.

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