Does this mean the end of UK production?
For the first time in the brand’s history, production of some future Minis, specifically its upcoming new EV lineup, will take place outside of Europe. According to Automotive News, BMW and China’s Great Wall Motors have signed a letter of intent for a joint venture that will see a Mini production facility built somewhere in China. An exact location has yet to be decided. We’ve been hearing rumors about this for a couple of months now, so the news is not exactly surprising.
BMW also stressed that this new agreement will in no way negatively impact Mini production in the UK. Mini is on course to launch its first EV model sometime in 2019 and it will be based on the Electric Concept, revealed last September at Frankfurt. That car will be built at Oxford, along with the rest of the existing Mini lineup. Once the new Chinese factory is completed, however, it’s unknown whether all Mini EV production will be shifted from the UK to the Far East, or if both facilities will produce EVs. What we do know is that BMW wants a strong presence in China and Great Wall was anxious to attract a major partner where it stands to benefit in both technology and image.
There have also been rumors that Mini may become an EV-only brand one day, mainly due to decreasing sales. By switching to battery-power only, Mini can sort of re-brand itself and attract new buyers who live in cities where EVs will be allowed to drive because they are emissions free. BMW may also be concerned about what a post-Brexit economic world will be like and how that will impact Oxford. Having a facility in China may also be able to serve as “backup” in case things go sour in the UK for BMW.