BMW’s MINI may not have been successful right away in China but it’s certainly making up for the lost time now as it sold a record 15,500 cars in 2011. MINI was introduced in 2005 in China. It only sold 430 units during the first year. However, MINI continues to expand and its sales are higher by 33% to 7,000 units in the first four months of 2012 compared to the same period in 2011.
According to Friedrich Eichiner, finance chief of MINI parent BMW, MINI was initially launched with a “high price point” because of a strategy for it to be in a niche premium segment. This is likely the reason for the slow sales. Adjustments were made to this strategy last year and this is when sales took off. He said that the cars are still marketed as premium models and they’re regarded in China as “chic and fashionable."
Rolls-Royce, BMW's other British brand, also had its market in China catch up with the U.S. as its biggest market in the world. The figures for each country weren’t broken down but UK's famous luxury limos sold 6.5% higher throughout the world in the first quarter of the year to 770 units.
These two brands contribute to the BMW Group’s impressive performance in China. The group’s sales in the first four months rose by 35% to 107,000 vehicles compared to the same period last year.
Last year, it had record total sales of 233,000. During the opening of BMW’s second plant in Shenyang in the north eastern part of China, Eichiner attended together with BMW chairman Norbert Reithofer. This plant, a joint venture with local partner Brilliance Automotive, will produce the X1 small SUV and the new long-wheelbase 3 series, which is designed particularly for the Chinese market.
When the new Tiexi plant starts to operate, it will double BMW's capacity in Shenyang to 200,000 vehicles annually. However, Eichiner said that the plan is to raise this to 300,000 units by the end of 2013. Reithofer was even more optimistic, explaining that as many as 400,000 units could be made because of its flexible production structure.