Research and development of the electric version of the famed British Mini car will take place in China, in collaboration with the Chinese carmaker Great Wall Motor Co.
BMW had announced last month that it had signed a letter of intent with Great Wall, potentially offering the Chinese company its first foreign manufacturing partner and the BMW’s first Mini assembly site outside of Europe.
“It will be developed in China and it will be produced in China, but we don’t know where yet,” said Peter Schwarzenbauer, a BMW board member.
China is BMW's biggest market. The German company sold 560,000 cars in China last year- more than America and Germany combined, including 35,000 Minis. China is also one of the fast growing markets for electric vehicles.
"A similar growth strategy could accelerate development of the Mini brand significantly," BMW said.
It added that it would continue talks with Great Wall "without questioning BMW Group's commitment in the UK," where production of electric Minis was stated to begin at an Oxford plant next year.
So far BMW has relied on its research and development facilities in Germany to produce the current Mini. More stringent local regulations, however, are forcing a shift of intellectual property to China.
"Production follows the market," BMW said in a statement. "This signals a ... a clear commitment to the electrified future of the Mini brand." It did not say when production in China would begin.
BMW also added that it would start to produce the electric Mini in 2019 at the model's main factory in the UK.
But that production run is expected to be small, and this news could revive worries over the future of thousands of jobs at the UK plant.
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