BMW is working on a deal that will bring manufacturing of the iconic Mini brand to China, according to people with knowledge of the plan.
BMW is discussing outsourcing production of Mini vehicles to Great Wall Motor, China’s biggest SUV maker, and the possible export of Minis from China, said the people, asking not to be identified because the deliberations are private.
A Great Wall spokesman declined to comment, saying the company will issue a formal statement later. Representatives for BMW’s China unit didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comments.
The British-designed Mini, first built to tackle soaring fuel prices in the late 1950s, has evolved over the years and the vehicles are now produced in England and the Netherlands.
After successfully reviving the Mini brand — selling more than 230,000 cars in in the first eight months — BMW is now preparing to add an electric version for the first time.
Speculation of a tie-up with BMW sent Great Wall shares soaring 14 percent Wednesday, prompting suspension in trading.
Great Wall, founded by billionaire Chairman Wei Jianjun, has become China’s leading SUV producer by offering local consumers spacious models with a higher ride and at cheaper prices than sedans from foreign automakers such as Volkswagen and General Motors.
While BMW already builds cars locally in a venture with Brilliance China Automotive Holdings, Great Wall doesn’t have any carmaking partners in China. Great Wall is planning to start production in the U.S., Wei said in March.
Like its rivals, BMW is navigating a costly shift to making electric cars as governments around the world crack down on pollution and impose curbs on fossil fuels.
The company has outlined plans for at least 12 fully electric cars by 2025. Those include battery-powered variants of mainstream models like the X3 SUV as well as the futuristic, self-driving iNext.
In July, BMW chose Oxford, England, for the electric Mini, passing on alternative plants in Germany and the Netherlands.
After China last month ordered most automakers to sell a minimum number of new-energy vehicles starting 2019, BMW said it is fully committed to promoting electric mobility in the country.