Canada’s Magna International is the biggest car manufacturer you never heard of. It builds cars for other people, most notably BMW and Jaguar Land Rover. In fact, it builds the new Jaguar I-PACE at its Magna Steyer facility in Austria. This week, it announced it has formed a joint venture with Beijing Electric Vehicle Company, a subsidiary of BAIC, to engineer and build two new premium electric cars for the Chinese market.
“These joint venture operations mark an historic milestone for Magna. For the first time we will be providing our customers with cars engineered and built outside our complete vehicle manufacturing facility in Graz, Austria,” says Don Walker, CEO of Magna International. “It’s a unique capability for Magna, especially with our ability to produce vehicles with conventional, hybrid and electric powertrains, and we are excited to bring it to a market like China where there is tremendous opportunity.” The fact that Magna will be directly involved in engineering the new cars as well as building them is an important step forward for the company.
The new joint venture is expected to take over an existing BAIC factory in the city of Zhenjiang in China’s Jiangsu Province. It has a maximum production capacity of 180,000 vehicles a year. The first of the new cars are expected to begin production in 2020. The joint venture will also solicit engineering and production work from third parties according to a report by Electrive.
“From a strategic point of view, the establishment of the JVs will benefit both Magna and BAIC to further strengthen our business growth in China”, says Xu Heyi, Chairman of BAIC Group. “Based on an open and sharing platform, we will jointly develop and manufacture premium smart electric vehicles, bringing the clean energy vehicle industry to the next level.”
Magna and BAIC began collaborating on a new electric vehicle platform in April of this year. It is expected that architecture will form the basis for the cars they will build together in Zhenjiang. The new joint venture is further proof that foreign corporations still prefer to do business with Chinese partners even though the Chinese government has recently made it possible for EV manufacturers to own factories in the country without local partners.
China now produces more than half of all the world’s electric vehicles each year and that proportion is increasing. It is now ground zero for the electric car revolution. While traditional automakers in Europe and the US dance their way toward maybe, possibly building lots of electric vehicles one day — God willing and the creek don’t rise — China is doing it. Our grandchildren will drive Chinese cars and think no more about it than people think about driving a Honda or a Hyundai today — assuming the streets are not all flooded by then.
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