BMW Group has signed with Great Wall Motors to produce Mini-branded vehicles in China. This is the German automotive group’s second joint venture in the region and will not affect its current alliance with Brilliance Auto — which builds BMW models specifically equipped to appeal to the Chinese market.
The same will be true for the Mini deal with Great Wall, as the entirety of the production line will be electric vehicles. While the main reason for this is to ensure BMW hits its government-imposed quota for EVs, Great Wall said the venture would help it meet the needs of Chinese consumers and tap into the new energy vehicle market both home and abroad.
Mini has said a production version of the Mini Electric Concept won’t happen until November of 2019, but there’s been buzz that the automaker may seek widespread electrification after that. Interestingly, Chinese Minis will use a new platform developed by the joint venture, rather than rely on whatever architecture the Western-built EV adheres to. That’s two separate plug-in product lines. Will EV exclusivity be the future of the brand?
In 2009, BMW avoided jumping the gun when it introduced an electric conversion of its Mini Cooper as a test platform instead of a production vehicle. Dubbed the “Mini E,” and limited to two seats due to its massive battery pack, the prototype served as a short-term consumer testbed for field trials and was deployed in several countries, including the United States.
However, as other automakers brought production EVs into the world, Mini held off — perhaps waiting for an more advantageous moment to enter the segment.
That moment appears to have arrived. The brand decided Wednesday to tease us with photos of its new “Mini Electric Concept,” which it says will enter into production in 2019. Its shares its powertrain with the BMW i3, so expect a driving range of at least 110 e-miles (or 180 with an optional gasoline range extender) and an electric motor producing a minimum of 160 horsepower.
BMW is playing some PR roulette at the DC Auto Show [via Autoblog Green] with a “study” ostensibly proving that people who lease an electric MINI are “delighted” with the car. As if self-selection weren’t already an issue in a study of people who voluntarily spend $850 per month on a small hatchback, the 57 respondents (out of 450 MINI E guinea pigs) were (you guessed it) self-selected. Why the University of California Davis allows its name to appear on this blatant PR fabrication is difficult to fathom. Especially considering the MINI E rollout was a disaster, the product was compromised, and there are plenty of MINI E critics out there.
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