BMW looking at Chinese-made electric Mini

People check out a BMW at a motor show in Beijing. The German automaker aims to manufacture a Chinese made electric Mini in the country. (Reuters)
Updated 23 February 2018
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BMW looking at Chinese-made electric Mini

BEIJING: BMW Group said Friday it is talking with China’s biggest SUV maker about a possible partnership to produce electric versions of its Mini as automakers ramp up electric development under pressure from Beijing to meet sales quotas.
BMW said it signed a letter of intent with Great Wall Motors headquartered in Baoding, southwest of Beijing, and needs to work out a cooperation agreement and investment details.
Auto brands face pressure to meet quotas that require electric vehicles to make up at least 10 percent of sales starting next year. Later, they face pressure to raise that to meet increasingly demanding fuel efficiency standards.
Beijing is using access to its auto market, the world’s largest, as leverage to induce global automakers to help Chinese brands develop battery and other electric vehicle technology. Foreign automakers that want to manufacture in China must do so through local partners, which requires them to hand over know-how or help potential Chinese competitors develop their own.
General Motors, Volkswagen, Nissan Motor and other brands already have announced similar plans with local partners to produce dozens of electric models for China.
MINI’s first battery electric model is due to be produced at its main British factory in Oxford in 2019, according to BMW.
“This signals a further clear commitment to the electrified future of the MINI brand,” BMW said in a statement.
Sales of pure-electric passenger vehicles in China rose 82 percent last year to 468,000, according to an industry group, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. That was more than double the US level of just under 200,000.
China is BMW’s biggest market. The Munich-based automaker said about 560,000 BMW brand vehicles were delivered to Chinese customers in 2017, more than its next two markets — the United States and Germany — combined.
China was MINI’s fourth-largest market in 2017, with 35,000 vehicles delivered, the company said.
An electrics venture with BMW would be a boost for Great Wall, which industry analysts have warned will struggle to satisfy Beijing’s sales quotas and had yet to announce any significant electric plans.
Great Wall sells more than 1 million fuel-hungry SUVs annually. That sets a high baseline for electric sales and will make it harder to meet fleet average efficiency standards.


Malaysia reviews China infrastructure plans

Malaysia’s former PM Najib Razak (AFP)
Updated 18 June 2018
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Malaysia reviews China infrastructure plans

  • Malaysia's scandal-mired former PM Najib Razak signed a string of deals for Beijing-funded projects, including a major rail link and a deep-sea port.
  • New Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has announced a planned high-speed rail link between Kuala Lumpur and neighboring Singapore will not go ahead as he seeks to reduce the country’s huge national debt.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has been a loyal partner in China’s globe-spanning infrastructure drive, but its new government is to review Beijing-backed projects, threatening key links in the much-vaunted initiative.

Kuala Lumpur’s previous regime, led by scandal-mired Najib Razak, had warm ties with China, and signed a string of deals for Beijing-funded projects, including a major rail link and a deep-sea port.

But the long-ruling coalition was unexpectedly voted out last month by an electorate alienated by allegations of corruption and rising living costs.

Critics have said that many agreements lacked transparency, fueling suspicions they were struck in exchange for help to pay off debts from the financial scandal which ultimately helped bring down Najib’s regime.

The new government, led by political heavyweight Mahathir Mohammed, has pledged to review Chinese deals seen as dubious, calling into question Malaysia’s status as one of Beijing’s most cooperative partners in its infrastructure push.

China launched its initiative to revive ancient Silk Road trading routes with a global network of ports, roads and railways — dubbed “One Belt, One Road” —  in 2013.

Malaysia and Beijing ally Cambodia were seen as bright spots in Southeast Asia, with projects in other countries often facing problems, from land acquisition to drawn-out negotiations with governments.

“Malaysia under Najib moved quickly to approve and implement projects,” Murray Hiebert, a senior associate from think-tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told AFP.

Chinese foreign direct investment into Malaysia stood at just 0.8 percent of total net FDI inflows in 2008, but that figure had risen to 14.4 percent by 2016, according to a study from Singapore’s ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.

However, Hiebert said it was “widely assumed” that Malaysia was striking quick deals with China in the hope of getting help to cover debts from sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.

Najib and his associates were accused of stealing huge sums of public money from the investment vehicle in a massive fraud. Public disgust at the allegations — denied by Najib and 1MDB — helped topple his government.

Malaysia’s first change of government in six decades has left Najib facing a potential jail term.

New Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has announced a planned high-speed rail link between Kuala Lumpur and neighboring Singapore will not go ahead as he seeks to reduce the country’s huge national debt.

The project was in its early stages and had not yet received any Chinese funding as part of “One Belt, One Road.” But Chinese companies were favorites to build part of the line, which would have constituted a link in a high-speed route from China’s Yunnan province to trading hub Singapore, along which Chinese goods could have been transported for export.

Work has already started in Malaysia on another line seen as part of that route, with Chinese funding — the $14-billion East Coast Rail Link, running from close to the Thai border to a port near Kuala Lumpur.

Mahathir has said that agreement is now being renegotiated.

Other Chinese-funded initiatives include a deep-sea port in Malacca, near important shipping routes, and an enormous industrial park.

It is not clear yet which projects will be amended but experts believe axing some will be positive.

Alex Holmes, Asia economist for Capital Economics, backed canceling some initiatives, citing “Malaysia’s weak fiscal position and that some of the projects are of dubious economic value.”

The Chinese foreign ministry did not respond to request for comment.

Decoder

What is the "One Belt, One Road" initiative?

The “One Belt, One Road” initiative, started in 2013, has come to define the economic agenda of President Xi Jinping. It aims to revive ancient Silk Road trading routes with a network of ports, roads and railways.