What Are You Doing Here? Chinese BMW 1 Series Spotted in the U.S.

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
what are em you em doing here chinese bmw 1 series spotted in the u s

With the 2020 BMW 1 Series having debuted (as a hatchback) earlier this year, we knew a new sedan was en route. In fact, spy shots of the vehicle started cropping up in Europe and China almost immediately. However, that particular vehicle turned out to be a refresh of the Chinese-made 1 Series (F52). But it wasn’t of much concern to us. Here in the United States, the smallest modern BMW sedan to grace our shores (at least until the 2 Series Gran Coupe arrives) is the 3 Series… or is it?

Delivering to us a bit of a head-scratcher, a friend of the site offered up a handful of photographs of a Chinese-market 1 Series donned in camouflage. The twist? It was sitting inside of a warehouse located on our East Coast and not halfway around the world.

Though a quick scan of the VIN revealed the car’s origin, it doesn’t even begin to explain why the front-wheel drive Bimmer is in North America. The car is in question is a BMW 118i, packed with a turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission — making it a rare find in this part of the globe.

Has it simply lost its way in a shipping mishap? Was some Chinese importer/exporter desperate to sneak one inside the United States? Or is BMW bringing it here for some, yet unknown, official purpose? What’s the point of camouflaging a pre-refresh model? We’ll see if we can pry some answers from the manufacturer but you’re free to speculate in the meantime.

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9 of 39 comments
  • Nick_515 Nick_515 on Jul 27, 2019

    While I have no interest in this FWD 1 series, I would have loved for BMW to bring the previous gen five door RWD 1 series to the US. For the past year I have been driving a hatchback A3, and in many ways it is a lovely car. That 2.0T is a little wonder. But I make several long trips a year, and the Audi is not quite in its element maintaining 80+ for hours on end in terms of NVH. How can I get most of that with even better highway ease in the same size and format? Too bad we only got the two door version.

    • See 6 previous
    • Lockstops Lockstops on Jul 30, 2019

      @Art Vandelay I was referring to the OP in this thread that begins: "While I have no interest in this FWD 1 series, I would have loved for BMW to bring the previous gen five door RWD 1 series to the US." The subject here was F20 1-series which is RWD. I agree that the FWD BMWs are crap. Actually I don't even care to evaluate them or waste time thinking about them, FWD crap does not interest me in any way.

  • Dukeisduke Dukeisduke on Jul 29, 2019

    Chinese-made BMWs? These should make the Yugo look good.

  • Nrd515 I bought an '88 S10 Blazer with the 4.3. We had it 4 years and put just about 48K on it with a bunch of trips to Nebraska and S. Dakota to see relatives. It had a couple of minor issues when new, a piece of trim fell off the first day, and it had a seriously big oil leak soon after we got it. The amazinly tiny starter failed at about 40K, it was fixed under some sort of secret warranty and we got a new Silverado as a loaner. Other than that, and a couple of tires that blew when I ran over some junk on the road, it was a rock. I hated the dash instrumentation, and being built like a gorilla, it was about an inch and a half too narrow for my giant shoulders, but it drove fine, and was my second most trouble free vehicle ever, only beaten by my '82 K5 Blazer, which had zero issues for nearly 50K miles. We sold the S10 to a friend, who had it over 20 years and over 400,000 miles on the original short block! It had a couple of transmissions, a couple of valve jobs, a rear end rebuild at 300K, was stolen and vandalized twice, cut open like a tin can when a diabetic truck driver passed out(We were all impressed at the lack of rust inside the rear quarters at almost 10 years old, and it just went on and on. Ziebart did a good job on that Blazer. All three of his sons learned to drive in it, and it was only sent to the boneyard when the area above the windshield had rusted to the point it was like taking a shower when it rained. He now has a Jeep that he's put a ton of money into. He says he misses the S10's reliablity a lot these days, the Jeep is in the shop a lot.
  • Jeff S Most densely populated areas have emission testing and removing catalytic converters and altering pollution devices will cause your vehicle to fail emission testing which could effect renewing license plates. In less populated areas where emission testing is not done there would probably not be any legal consequences and the converter could either be removed or gutted both without having to buy specific parts for bypassing emissions. Tampering with emission systems would make it harder to resell a vehicle but if you plan on keeping the vehicle and literally running it till the wheels fall off there is not much that can be done if there is no emission testing. I did have a cat removed on a car long before mandatory emission testing and it did get better mpgs and it ran better. Also had a cat gutted on my S-10 which was close to 20 years old which increased performance and efficiency but that was in a state that did not require emission testing just that reformulated gas be sold during the Summer months. I would probably not do it again because after market converters are not that expensive on older S-10s compared to many of the newer vehicles. On newer vehicles it can effect other systems that are related to the operating and the running of the vehicle. A little harder to defeat pollution devices on newer vehicles with all the systems run by microprocessors but if someone wants to do it they can. This law could be addressing the modified diesels that are made into coal rollers just as much as the gasoline powered vehicles with cats. You probably will still be able to buy equipment that would modify the performance of a vehicles as long as the emission equipment is not altered.
  • ToolGuy I wonder if Vin Diesel requires DEF.(Does he have issues with Sulfur in concentrations above 15ppm?)
  • ToolGuy Presented for discussion: https://xroads.virginia.edu/~Hyper2/thoreau/civil.html
  • Kevin Ford can do what it's always done. Offer buyouts to retirement age employees, and transfers to operating facilities to those who aren't retirement age. Plus, the transition to electric isn't going to be a finger snap one time event. It's going to occur over a few model years. What's a more interesting question is: Where will today's youth find jobs in the auto industry given the lower employment levels?