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China's Great Wall Motor wins approval for BMW car plant

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By Reuters

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s Great Wall Motor <601633.SS> has gained domestic regulatory approval to build a factory in China together with BMW <BMWG.DE>, it said on Friday, paving the way for the German carmaker to develop and build a low-emission Mini.

Since February 2018 BMW, which sells a little more than 2 million cars a year, and Chinese SUV manufacturer Great Wall, which sold around 1 million vehicles last year, have tried to share the costs of building a low-cost electric vehicle on a joint platform to be used by both brands, but the project ran into regulatory hurdles.

The project, with total investment of 5.1 billion yuan ($724.4 million), will have annual capacity of 160,000 combustion engine cars for export, Great Wall said in a Shanghai Stock Exchange filing.

The filing said plant construction will begin next year and be completed in 2022, but the company added that capacity for new energy vehicles has yet to be approved by authorities.

A BMW statement said: “The initial focus of our cooperation with the Chinese manufacturer Great Wall is the joint research and development and the future local production of Mini electric vehicles.”

The German carmaker also said that a further announcement about the joint venture will be made in the city of Zhangjiagang on Nov. 29.

The two manufacturers had envisaged building low-emission vehicles in China, but a trade dispute between China and the United States had led BMW executives to freeze plans for the creation of a Chinese export hub.

“We have no basis for taking a decision at the moment. Whether this is financially viable and whether it makes sense needs to be evaluated,” BMW’s Chief Executive told journalists at the Geneva car show in March.

(Reporting by Yilei Sun in Guangzhou and Brenda Goh in Beijing and Joern Poltz in Munich; Editing by David Goodman)