The Mini Electric Concept will spawn a production model in 2019.
INTERNATIONAL - BMW AG will make Mini cars in China for the first time, sealing a joint-venture agreement to produce electric vehicles with partner Great Wall Motor Co. in the world’s largest automotive market.

The 50-50 owned venture will make battery-powered vehicles for both partners at a new plant in Jiangsu Province, BMW said in a statement Tuesday. The expansion is the German luxury carmaker’s second this week in China, part of a parade of accords announced at a Berlin summit with Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in attendance.

“Today’s signing represents a new level of cooperation between China and Germany,” BMW Chief Executive Officer Harald Krueger said in the statement.

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Creation of the venture, called Spotlight Automotive Ltd., coincides with China’s April decision to ease foreign-ownership restrictions in the country, with the possibility that Western automakers could eventually buy out their local partners. On Monday, BMW agreed to lift output at a separate venture with Brilliance China Automotive Holdings that will lessen the sting of higher Chinese import tariffs on its U.S.-made SUVs.

The company sold 560,000 BMW brand vehicles to customers in China in 2017, more than the U.S. and Germany combined. China was Mini’s fourth-largest market, with around 35,000 units delivered, it said.

“This underlines the brand’s additional global potential, which will now be significantly supported through the joint venture with Great Wall Motor,” BMW said.

The company pledged last year to build electric models at its factory in Oxford, England. It said Tuesday that any plans to expand in China don’t affect the brand’s commitment to Britain.  

Founded by billionaire Chairman Wei Jianjun, Great Wall has become China’s leading SUV producer by offering consumers spacious models at prices cheaper than sedans from the likes of Volkswagen AG and General Motors Co. 

- BLOOMBERG