The Financial Times is reporting that BMW may sell the MINI brand and Oxford Plant to joint venture with the Chinese company Great Wall Motors. It’s a potential bombshell report that mirrors the strategy Mercedes used in selling the Smart brand to Geely. However there’s one major caveat; the rumor is being vigorously denied by BMW.
In response BMW has said there was “no question” over the future of the Oxford Plant and that there are “no plans to sell the MINI plant in Oxford.” A spokesperson went on to say: “As we move towards becoming an all-electric brand by 2030, Oxford is an integral part of this strategy. Oxford plays a key role in the production strategy of the BMW Group with its high flexibility, competitiveness and competence — also with regard to electromobility.”
While we question the legitimacy of rumors like this, there are signs that BMW is making some kind of move. Just today the brand officially raised its stake in the Chinese joint venture with Great Wall Motors as China’s foreign ownership restrictions on local vehicle manufacturing companies was related at the start of 2022.
While the concept is shocking, this isn’t entirely out of the blue. Several years ago BMW and Great Wall Motors created a joint venture to help defray the costs of the next generation, all electric MINIs. While BMW will build a facelifted version of the current ICE MINI in Oxford (and the Countryman in Germany), all of MINI’s small electric models will be manufactured in China for global export. If the rumors are to be believed (which is debatable), BMW would sell the brand and the plant to the joint venture that it partially owns with Great Wall Motors. The strategy would limit BMW’s financial risk while still having a controlling interest in the brand. In other words it would allow BMW to have a hand in the brand’s future direction, design of its products and (critically) continue the practice of BMW platform sharing.