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BMW, Great Wall team up

Mini me: Great Wall Motors showed the all-electric Ora R1 at the Beijing motor show, revealing that it sits on a Mini Electric architecture.

Great Wall’s Ora set to benefit from electric Mini joint venture with BMW


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11 Jul 2018

GREAT Wall Motor’s fledgling Ora electric vehicle sub-brand appears set to be the big winner from a new joint venture between the Chinese company and Germany’s BMW Group to build electric vehicles at a new factory to be established in China.


Signed by executives of the two companies at an event attended by Germany’s president Angela Merkel and Chinese premier Li Keqiang in Berlin overnight, the 50:50 joint venture – dubbed Spotlight Automotive – will produce a future all-electric Mini for BMW and unnamed electric vehicles for GWM.


The GWM cars are likely to be production versions of the Mini-sized Ora R1 and R2 electric hatchback concepts shown by GWM when it unveiled its Ora sub-brand at the Beijing motor show in April.


Interestingly, press information dished out by GWM at the show said the two battery powered city runabouts shared a “Mini Electric (ME)” platform.


The R1 and R2 were shown alongside the larger all-electric Ora IQ sedan that is said to ride on a separate platform.


As GWM Group vice-president of product planning Sam Chen told GoAuto at the show, Ora’s three models were being considered for export, but that some marketing hurdles still needed to be cleared.


BMW’s new deal with GWM comes hard on the heels of another to expand its existing Chinese joint venture with Brilliance Automotive Group – BMW Brilliance Automotive (BBA) – to increase Chinese BMW production to 520,000 vehicles a year from 2019.


This expansion will in part allow for production of the all-electric iX3 in China for global markets from 2020.


The conventional X3 – previously built only at BMW’s United States plant at Spartanburg – has just gone into production at one of two BBA factories in China to supply that market, which is BMW’s biggest.


So far, it is unclear if the electric Mini to be built by Spotlight Automotive at the new plant in Jiangsu Province is destined for export to markets such as Australia, but if the iX3 is set to be shipped offshore, there seems to be no impediment for the Mini not to follow suit.


Full-scale electrified Mini production kicked off in the United Kingdom with the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) version of the Mini Countryman revealed at the 2016 Los Angeles motor show.

A battery electric Mini is set to follow from the same UK plant next year. BMW showed a Mini Electric Concept at last year’s Frankfurt motor show.


BMW Group Australia CEO Marc Werner has confirmed the PHEV Countryman for Australia where it will go into showrooms in the second quarter of 2019.


However, he said the battery electric Mini had not been confirmed for this market.


Announcing the BMW-GWM agreement, BMW board member for development, Klaus Frohlich, said the strengths and expertise of both companies complemented each other well.


“Our experience as a pioneer and leader in the field of electrification, coupled with Great Wall Motor’s proven track-record in efficient industrialisation, enables us together to drive the growth of the largest e-mobility market in the world,” he said.


“With our joint approach, we can quickly scale up production and increase efficiency in the highly competitive segment of compact electric vehicles.”


Of the 560,000 BMW vehicles sold in China last year, two thirds were made by BBA. More BMWs are now sold in China than in the US and Germany combined.


It is Mini’s fourth largest market, with around 35,000 units delivered in 2017.


China is not only the world’s biggest automotive market with 24.7 million passenger car sales last year but also the largest market for electric vehicles, mostly because of incentives and mandatory rules forcing car-makers to adopt electric powertrains in increasing numbers.


Unlike many state-owned Chinese car-makers such as SAIC Motor, FAW and Changan – privately owned GWM – maker of Great Wall, Haval and Wey-branded vehicles for China and export markets – has shunned production joint ventures until now, making its own path with its home-grown product such as the super-successful Haval H6 – China’s top-selling SUV.


Haval was China’s ninth best-selling automotive brand in 2017, with 3.5 per cent of the market.

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