Manufacturing News

BMW will build front-wheel-drive cars in China to attract middle-class buyers

BMW will double the number of models it builds in China to six to increase sales to middle-class buyers who don't have chauffeurs.

The automaker will add production of the front-wheel drive 2-series Active Tourer minivan and a fwd sedan below the 3 series, likely badged as a 1 series. The third model will be a variant of the rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive X3 compact SUV.

"The (China-only) long-wheelbase version of the 5 series remains our best-seller with over a third of our China sales," said BMW's China chief Karsten Engel. "But we see a growing number of customers new to the brand that do not have a chauffeur and drive their cars themselves."

BMW will begin local production of the 2-series AT next year, followed by the sedan in 2017 and the X3 at a future date to be announced. The cars will be built in BMW's factory in Tiexi, west of Shenyang in northeastern China. The 2-series AT and sedan are underpinned by BMW's new UKL front-wheel-drive architecture shared with Mini.

Opened in 2012, Tiexi builds the X1 compact SUV and the 3-series sedan in standard and long-wheelbase variants.

Tiexi also is part of the joint venture with Brilliance China Automotive Holdings. The joint venture's first joint venture factory in Dabong, northeast of Shenyang, opened in 2003 to build a China-only long-wheelbase variant of the 5-series sedan. The plant this year added a plug-in variant of the long-wheelbase 5 series.

To add three models, BMW is expanding its combined Tiexi and Dabong production capacity to 400,000 units by 2017, up from 285,000 units built last year.

Locally manufactured models account for two-thirds of BMW's 425,765 China sales last year, Engel said.

BMW also is adding complete engine production to the Tiexi complex, which will start production early next year. The plant will produce up to 300,000 engines a year, starting with the new 2.0-liter, four-cylinder gasoline unit that debuted on the 2-series AT. Later, the plant will start producing the 1.5-liter, three-cylinder engine that powers the revamped 1 series.

"This will be the first time BMW will have a engine casting complex outside of Germany," said Ian Robertson, BMW board member in charge of BMW marketing and sales.

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