Mini Electric looks to China
BMW Group Thailand plans to use a new plant in China to produce Mini Electric cars for Thailand, enjoying zero import duty under the Asean-China free trade area.
Newly appointed president Alexander Baraka said the plan is to sell battery electric vehicles (BEVs) to the Thai market, while German luxury car maker's manufacturing in Rayong oversees assembly of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and internal combustion engine (ICE) cars.
Last November, the Munich-based BMW Group and Chinese car maker Great Wall Motors announced a plan to build the plant in Jiangsu province.
The companies are together investing €650 million in the plant, scheduled for completion in 2022. The operation will make 160,000 cars a year for Mini Electric and the Great Wall brand.
Mr Baraka said the BEV market is increasing in China, so the joint-venture facility is being improved in order to introduce more BEVs in future.
But BMW is still interested in developing the Rayong plant for BEVs.
"Buyers have many choices, so each BMW facility has to be flexible to produce many types of motors," Mr Baraka said. "In metropolitan areas, BEVs are the best choice for commuters, but a driving distance of 200-300 kilometres requires diesel-based vehicles and PHEVs that can go further."
In related news, BMW will import the Mini Cooper SE, also known as Mini Electric, from its Oxford, England plant to sell 25 units locally. Thailand has been chosen as the first country in Asia-Pacific to receive this model.
The Mini Electric made its world premiere in July 2019 in Frankfurt. This model uses the BMW i3s power system.
The imported BEV is priced at 2.29 million baht for the Thai market, and bookings open Feb 14 through the website only. Buyers can purchase a Mini Electric wallbox for home installation, available for two maximum capacities of 7.4 and 11 kilowatts, priced at 100,000 and 120,000 baht, respectively.
Preecha Ninatkiattikul, general manager of Mini Thailand, said zero-emissions cars are becoming more popular with Thai motorists as PM2.5 pollution recurs every year.
"We expect to receive an overwhelming response from buyers, and Mini plans to import a higher volume, but it depends on the car output from the plant in the UK," he said.
Mr Preecha said Mini cars reached an all-time high with 1,204 deliveries in 2019, or 14.4% growth, marking the highest performance of Mini worldwide.
For BMW's global plan for EVs, the BMW iX3 will be introduced this year and the BMW i4 and iNEXT in 2021.
By 2025, BMW Group will have an electrified product portfolio with at least 25 models, 13 PHEVs and 12 BEVs with a projected 15-25% share of total sales.
BMW delivered half a million EVs to customers worldwide as of 2019. A total of 145,815 EVs were sold worldwide last year, representing a 2.2% rise.