Said to be slotted under the BMW MINI brand portfolio as an entry-level offering, the Zhi Nuo brand is expected to be launched at this year’s Shanghai Auto Show in April, and will have its own independent sales dealership and service network
The Chinese government has been pushing for the creation of sub-brands within the existing (compulsory) joint ventures between overseas automakers and local state-owned manufacturers in order to obtain 100 per cent ownership on the intellectual property and profits of those sub-brands.
Since foreign automakers are understandably reluctant to give their latest technology away, the German automaker is said to be basing and modifying these ‘new’ cars on an older-generation model like the 3-Series (called E90 internally) to comply with the authorities’ new energy requirements and thus remain in the market.
According to insider sources, for BMW equation is simple: if it sets up the Zhi Nuo brand, it will be given permission to build its second factory in Shenyang’s Tie Xi district. When that is up and running, both Zhi Nuo- and BMW-badged marques can be assembled.
On the upside, BMW gets to claw back market share from its biggest rival Audi outside of the luxury sedan field, while consumers get to experience more affordable BMW-quality cars.
Currently, 80 per cent of China's premium car segment is controlled by the big three German carmakers, BMW, Audi and Mercedes. Data from the semi-official China Association of Automobile Manufacturers show that among foreign carmakers, German manufacturers held the largest market share with 19.34 per cent.
Other sub-branded cars are the Guangzhou-Honda Everus S1, actually an old Honda City. Denza, a marque created by BYD-Daimler was based on the old Mercedes-Benz B-class. Dongfeng-Honda’s own CIIMO sub-brand was a new badge on a last-generation Honda Civic.