BMW's JV Spotlight Automotive to produce electric Minis in China

BMW’s plan to relocate production of electric Mini cars from the UK to China will help the brand raise its profile and attract young buyers in the country, as the carmaker aims for a bigger share in the world’s largest electric vehicle (EV) market, analysts said. The German carmaker said it planned to move some of its Mini production from its Cowley plant in Oxford to China next year. But BMW insisted that Oxford will “remain at the heart of Mini production”. Spotlight Automotive, a 50-50 venture between BMW and its Chinese partner Great Wall Motor, will begin assembling electric Mini cars in Zhangjiagang, in Jiangsu province next year, BMW had announced last November.

“The end of electric Mini production in Oxford represents a strategic shift in BMW’s focus to the mammoth Chinese EV market,” said Gao Shen, Independent Analyst in Shanghai. “The compact electric car segment has great potential in China, and BMW’s Mini is a brand worth the attention given the popularity of its internal combustion engine products.”

BMW has been seeking to overhaul the unprofitable brand by shifting some manufacturing to Asia. In 2019, Great Wall and BMW established Spotlight to produce EVs, with each party contributing half of the total CNY5.1 billion investment. Spotlight, with a capacity of 160,000 vehicles a year, will initially manufacture two Mini models including the Aceman. The Oxford plant churns out 40,000 electric Minis each year. Last year, sales of electric Minis in China rose 5.2% year-on-year to 30,546 units. Analysts said that while sales of electric Minis are not large, local production could cut production costs, with savings likely to be passed on to Chinese buyers, the South China Morning Post reports.