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

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

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.

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • 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.

  • VoGhost Love this collective clutching of pearls over a vehicle name not a single commenter will ever see, drive or buy.
  • 28-Cars-Later "Here's why" edition_cnn_com/2018/06/13/health/falling-iq-scores-study-intl/index.html
  • 28-Cars-Later Seriously, $85. GM Delta I is burning hot garbage to the point where the 1990 Saturn Z-body is leagues better. My mother inherited an '07 Ion with 30Kish otc which was destroyed in 2014 by a tipsy driver with a suspended license (driver's license enforcement is a joke in Pennsyltucky). Insurance paid out $6,400 when it was only worth about $5,800 IIRC, but sure 10 year later the "hipo" Delta I can fetch how much?
  • Buickman styling does not overcome powertrain, follow the money. labor/materials.
  • VoGhost It's funny, until CDK raises their prices to cover the cost. And then the stealerships do even more stealing because they're certainly not taking the hit - why do you think they make all those political donations? So who pays in the end?