Times are changing for Mini.
After years of rumors, BMW has announced plans to move production of the Mini outside of Europe for the first time in the company's history. As part of a new "Spotlight Automotive Limited" joint venture with Great Wall Motor, a new production facility will be built in Zhangjiagang, China, where future electric Mini vehicles and several models and brands for Great Wall Motor will be produced.
The plant will have a capacity of up to 160,000 vehicles per year and require around 3,000 employees after the ramp-up phase. Both partners are investing around 650 million Euro ($714 million), while construction of the plant is planned for 2020 to 2022.
This doesn't mean that Mini production will end in the UK, however, as BMW affirmed that Mini's Oxford plant, which recently built the 10 millionth car since the brand's launch in 1959, will remain the "heart and home of Mini manufacturing" and will still produce the electric Mini Cooper SE. Given the high demand for electric vehicles in China, the joint venture marks a pivotal step to help BMW achieve its electrification strategy, with the aim to launch 12 electrified models by 2023, over half of which will be fully electric.
"Today we are taking the next step in our collaboration: With the BMW Group as a pioneer in the field of electromobility and Great Wall as a major player and expert in industrialisation in the Chinese market, we are joining forces for development and production of the future electric Mini and new Great Wall models," said Klaus Frohlich, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, responsible for Development.
Dr. Nicolas Peter, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, responsible for Finance added: "This German-Chinese relationship underscores our commitment to China and the future of premium compact electrified vehicles. This joint venture will enable us to produce a larger number of Mini-brand-fully electric vehicles at attractive conditions for the world market. This is also an important strategic step for the Mini brand. The joint venture with Great Wall underlines the enormous importance of the Chinese market for us."
Starting at $29,900, the electric Mini Cooper SE is powered by a 32.6 kWh lithium-ion battery and an electric motor mounted on the front axle. This setup produces 181 horsepower and 199 lb-ft of torque, enabling the electric hatchback to hit 37 mph in 3.9 seconds, 0-62 mph in 7.3 seconds, and reach a top speed of 93.2 mph, while the driving range is expected to be around 114 miles based on the US EPA cycle.