By on July 26, 2019

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.

 

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

39 Comments on “What Are You Doing Here? Chinese BMW 1 Series Spotted in the U.S....”


  • avatar
    R Henry

    Good thing those side mirrors are camouflaged! Lots of valuable, secret IP there!

  • avatar
    R Henry

    Methinks this car might be in a Customs bonded warehouse…perhaps in storage before transiting to another country (notice the fencing–to segregate from cleared imports.)

    I know many official BMW experiments arrive via Port Hueneme in California, which argues against this being a corporate mule….but just guessing, of course.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Maybe BMW will start pulling a Buick with their cars being made in China and exported. As long as it has a BMW badge it will be ok for those who just want the status of owning and driving a BMW.

  • avatar
    Stanley Steamer

    Someone ordered it on Amazon and it arrived from China with the rest of those boxes. One can get anything on Amazon.

  • avatar
    Best_Ever

    Nice Kia.

  • avatar
    mmreeses

    kinda off-topic from someone who thinks both political parties stink:

    Don’t understand how Democrats poo-poo right-to-work states but then criticize Trump for putting tariffs on countries with weak labor and environmental laws (China, Mexico, India, etc. cough cough). Where’s the logic in that?

    If you’re a Democrat and dislike South Carolina’s labor laws, you should be hating mainland China to the Nth degree. Just saying.

    • 0 avatar
      CaddyDaddy

      …….someone appears to be WOKE!

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      Apropos of…?

      What does any of that rambling mess have to do with the 1 series BMW?

    • 0 avatar
      turbo_awd

      Maybe it’s because he’s putting tariffs on those countries to get PERSONAL benefits, such as government loans to build “Trump Enterprise” buildings, and not actually because of said weak labor / environmental laws.

      If the poor working conditions were the reason, I’d be in favor.

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      Main Street Democrats traditionally have NOT been in favor of free trade with low-wage, low-environmental-standard countries. Wall Street Democrats have, just like Wall Street Republicans always have. Bill Clinton was the Wall Street Dems’ guy and he gave the big FU to unions with NAFTA, which passed only thanks to Republican votes in Congress.

      On the other hand, I’ve never understood why Main Street Republicans traditionally went along with Wall Street Republicans on the trade issue. The rise of Trump suggests that has changed though.

      OTOH, if you think a New York playboy who inherited $433 million and a real estate empire from his daddy is out to represent working people from any party, he’s got bridge to sell y–scratch that, he already has.

  • avatar

    I am seriously concerned about well being of DW. I am dazed and confused about what is going on with BMW and want answers, now!

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    What a $#!+box. Anyone buying this is a darned fool

    • 0 avatar
      CaddyDaddy

      Art, come on man. No sane person is buying this thing. For all of BMW’s faults, marketing is not one of them. They know their market and this will be the king of the lease deals for those marquee whores. $1,500 down on the credit card and another $1,000 trade in for their clapped-out Civic, $249 a month and they are in the “club”.

  • avatar
    SPPPP

    I am sure the owner really appreciates the two holes left in the trunklid by some kind of self-tapping screws. Though, to be honest, when shipping internationally, if that’s the worst that happens … maybe you did all right.

  • avatar
    craiger

    It’s a gray market car that somebody shipped over from China and camouflaged it in case anyone asked. Or, somebody just wanted to see if they could get Jalopnik or TTAC to write about it.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    The VIN number flummoxes a number of VIN decoder sites, including NHTSA. Two of those that do give an answer say it’s a 1989 BMW. One says it’s an F52 118i made in 2016, which doesn’t aquare with the K production year of the 11th digit.

    In any case, the first three VIN digits WBA are Germany. The 11th digit is M, and that means assembly in Munich.

    It must be a corporate mule of some description. None of the decoders had any problem with the VINs of my cars.

    BMW ships SUVs from the East coast because of Spartanburg SC assembly, and some go to China. Where on the east coast is this mystery BMW, anyway?

  • avatar
    Hydromatic

    Don’t some manufacturers test their vehicles in the U.S. before selling them in other markets? That’s probably the case here.

  • avatar
    Nick_515

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      OliverTwist78

      Good dear! I live in Germany and have driven a hired five-door 116i with manual gearbox for a few days. I regretted not upgrading to 525d xDrive Touring for €30 more per day. My good friend got a fleet car, 118i, and hated it with venegeance. He counted each day with passion until the corporate lease expired.

      Utterly, the worst German car I’ve driven. Thirsty and lacklustre engine. Tiny fuel tank. Depressing and cramped interior. And so on. Good thing BMW didn’t send 3-door and 5-door 1-Series to the US.

      • 0 avatar
        Nick_515

        Whoa! Thanks for the input. I was hoping it was a baby 3 series. Will have to rent one while in Europe.

      • 0 avatar
        Lockstops

        Poppycock. The F20 LCI 118i is a magnificent car, absolute motoring perfection for that price and actually even if it was much higher in price it would be hard to beat. The engine is surprisingly thirsty if you have a lead foot though, but if you tread lightly it is very frugal.

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          Nooo, I’ve driven them too and the OP is correct…they are garbage.

          • 0 avatar
            Lockstops

            Great RWD chassis no different to 3- and 4-series, engine is far more sonorous and characterful than the earlier 4-pots (and the automatic models have the pretty damn perfect ZF transmission), it’s pretty quiet and comfortable too, and as it’s a BMW it has the best ergonomics in the business.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            Maybe, but this car ain’t that…the Chinese market 1 series pictured here rides on a FWD platform. I’ve driven this car and it blows.

          • 0 avatar
            Lockstops

            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.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

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

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Old_WRX: The same plandemic that they have a resurgence of scheduled for this fall.
  • Old_WRX: I notice the vehicle in the picture casts no shadow. Must be some super-secret new tech they are working on.
  • ajla: “Some people seem to actually like all of that unnecessary sound and fury.” “To each their...
  • tankinbeans: Kill it with fire and then kill it some more. My 3 year old niece would turn that into a projectile at...
  • Luke42: I personally dislike V8s. Pairing a V8 with a hybrid system makes it suck less, by minimizing the drama under...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Matthew Guy
  • Timothy Cain
  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Chris Tonn
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber