BMW May Move MINI Production to China

A British legend was born in 1959. No, we’re not referring to the great Tracey Ullman, but another icon that has become deeply rooted in British culture and is known around the world:

The MINI.

The economy car, originally produced by the British Motor Corporation, was voted the second most influential vehicle of the 20th century, just behind the Ford Model T and ahead of the Volkswagen Beetle. Production began in 1959 and continues to this day, though ownership has changed hands a number of times.

The famous British brand has been under BMW ownership since 2001, and now the German automaker plans to further dilute MINI’s English roots.

Here’s what Bloomberg reported last week:

The German company is discussing a possible outsourcing agreement with China’s Great Wall Motor Co. to produce the small car for export, said the people, asking not to be identified as the deliberations are private.

The British-designed vehicle, first built to tackle soaring fuel prices in the late 1950s, has evolved over the years and the vehicles are now produced in the U.K. and the Netherlands. After successfully reviving the brand—selling more than 230,000 cars in the first eight months of the year—BMW is now preparing to add an electric version for the first time.

More cars are going global, and China is primed to emerge as one of the top countries for production. It’s truly only a matter of time before Chinese-branded vehicles are sold on American shores.

But back to MINI.

BMW, like most automakers, is under pressure to reduce costs and improve fuel efficiency while increasing the availability of electric cars. China is a major source of that pressure and has ordered automakers to sell a minimum number of electric cars in the country by 2019. The MINI could be a significant part of BMW’s plan to meet China’s requirements.

Regardless of where MINI vehicles get built, they’ll always retain their British heritage and funky personality. I just wonder how long before we start seeing them in Chinese-flag livery.

Would a “Made in China” label keep you from buying a MINI, or does that just not matter anymore?

-tgriffith

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