The joint venture of Germany-based luxury vehicle maker BMW China with Great Wall Motor is set to start production in 2023, as the former aims to have electric vehicles make up one-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 China Chief Executive Officer Jochen Goller said at the Shanghai autoshow, a biennial international automobile show. Production of two Mini EVs for the China and global markets will start in 2023, he said.
Booming Chinese market
China is already the world’s biggest electric vehicle market, and traditional automakers like BMW and Volkswagen are battling with a number of upstarts as well as tech giants like 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 Auto show was dominated by EV reveals, with Japan’s Toyota Motor unveiling its first SUV built on an electric platform.
Highlighting the opportunities and challenges of China’s booming EV market, BMW was the only traditional carmaker 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 Group; tech giant Huawei, and China Evergrande New Energy Vehicle Group, which plans to topple Elon Musk-owned Tesla but has yet to produce a single car.
Despite the intensifying competition, Mr. 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.
The German automaker is off to a strong start, with 229,000 BMWs and Minis delivered in China in the first quarter, Mr. 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.
China’s passenger-vehicle deliveries may continue to climb about 10-15 percent in 2Q as carmakers’ aggressive model rollouts during late April’s Shanghai Auto Show could increase demand.