BMW Group’s China joint venture with Great Wall Motor is set to start production in 2023, as the automaker aims to have electric vehicles make up a quarter of its sales in the country.
The construction of a manufacturing plant with Great Wall is "well under way" and the main structure should be completed later this year, BMW’s CEO for China, Jochen Goller, said in an interview at the Shanghai auto show on Monday.
Production of two Mini EVs for the China and global markets will start in 2023, he said.
BMW and Great Wall said in 2019 they had teamed up to open a plant in China with an annual capacity of 160,000.
China is already the world’s biggest electric vehicle market, and long established automakers such as BMW and Volkswagen Group are battling with a slew of upstarts as well as tech giants such as Huawei Technologies plus more random entrants such as property developer China Evergrande Group for a slice of the market.
The first day of the Shanghai show was dominated by EV reveals, with Toyota unveiling its first SUV built on an electric platform.
Highlighting the opportunities -- and challenges -- of China’s burgeoning EV market, BMW was the only traditional automaker in its hall at the Shanghai show, a multiday event aimed at highlighting the industry’s latest innovations.
BMW was surrounded by Nio and Xpeng (which unveiled a flying car); Zeekr, the new luxury EV brand from Zhejiang Geely Holding; tech giant Huawei, and China Evergrande New Energy Vehicle Group, which has designs on toppling Tesla but has yet to produce a single car.
Despite the intensifying competition, BMW's Goller said he remains optimistic about the long-term outlook for China’s auto market. With the growth of an affluent middle class, China’s car market will “continuously boom,” he said in the interview.
BMW is off to a strong start, with 229,000 BMWs and Minis delivered in China in the first quarter, Goller said. That’s after sales rose 8 percent last year. China’s first-quarter retail auto sales surged 69 percent from a year earlier, when the country was in the grip of coronavirus lockdowns.